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Home / News / Two Govt TDs voted No in Family, Care referendums

Two Govt TDs voted No in Family, Care referendums

Two government TDs have admitted to casting No votes in last Friday referendums on Family and Care.

It comes after Fianna Fáil Senator Lisa Chambers confirmed that she also voted No last Friday, despite canvassing for a Yes vote in Dublin city centre last month.

The Care referendum was defeated with a 73.9% No vote, while the Family referendum lost with a 67.7% No vote.

Fianna Fáil TD Niamh Smyth told RTÉ’s Morning Ireland she had canvassed for a Yes vote in the care and family referendums but had voted No in the care referendum.

“I voted. Yes, on one and No on the other,” she said.

She added the debate on the care issue, including contributions from Senator Tom Clonan, prompted her to vote No.

“I listened to the debate, and I felt that people who are much more involved in disability, NGOs and parents who have children with disability and those who are carers, felt that the wording wasn’t strong enough and didn’t represent what they wanted to see in our constitution and for that reason I voted No,” she said.

Asked whether she was let down party colleagues and Government who had campaigned for a Yes vote, she responded “the beauty of democracy” is that it “doesn’t matter if you are an elected member or you are an ordinary citizen”, that everybody’s ability to vote should be respected “whatever choice they make”.

Fianna Fáil TD Niamh Smyth

John McGuiness, TD for Carlow-Kilkenny, told the same programme that he voted No in both referendums and his party was out of touch with voters.

Other government TDs have also admitted to not canvassing door-to-door for a Yes vote, including Limerick Green Party TD Brian Leddin.

He said he did social media and “other media stuff” but did not get to the point where he was knocking on doors looking for a Yes vote.

Mr Leddin said his efforts were “not good enough” and he “could have done more”.

“I didn’t get out canvassing at all. I would hold my hands up,” he said.

He added that he probably took for granted there would be a Yes vote and despite doing media and social media campaigning that he “didn’t get to the point where I was knocking on doors and asking people to vote Yes for both questions”.

Mr Leddin’s comments follow a letter by Green Party leader Eamon Ryan and Minister Roderic O’Gorman to party members saying: “Our party ran the most active campaign of any party in Ireland”.

Fianna Fáil TD James Lawless said there was no “great surprise” about the defeat of the proposed changes in the referendums and that the Government parties were “not convinced” the referendum was needed.

Mr Lawless said he “did not campaign” for the referendum and would not say what way he voted.

“I did not campaign for it because I wasn’t convinced there was a need for it,” he told RTÉ’s Morning Ireland.

“I didn’t detect at any stage prior to the votes being announced any great public desire for these referenda.

“I think that this flowed from the Green element of the three party government. In future if any such changes are being proposed I think it would be important for all three parties to be consulted, engaged on them, and have the case made internally,” said Mr Lawless.

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Asked if he was blaming the Green Party, Mr Lawless responded: “The Greens were the ones who wanted it. There was some suggestion in the media that the parties didn’t campaign hard enough for it … that’s because the parties were not convinced it was necessary in the first place.

“Nobody in Government ever asked my opinion or any other TDs or Senators, that I’m aware of, it was announced through Cabinet one day that this was going to happen,” Mr Lawless said.

Mr Lawless said “those of us who are close to the ground had detected” the loss one or two weeks out from voting.

“I think the whole incident is a wake up call and I hope Government gets back to basics,” said Mr Lawless adding “bread and butter issues” of health, housing and law and order needed to be tackled.

Fine Gael Galway East TD Ciarán Canon said he voted ‘Yes’ in both referendums but admitted he did not go door-to-door looking for a ‘Yes’ vote.

He said “t this point in politics in Ireland and internationally” campaigns are being won and lost in the media and social media.

Mr McGuiness accused his own party of being out of touch with voters.

“Fianna Fáil has lost its way. I think that for quite some time now since we entered into confidence and supply with Fine Gael and then thereafter in government, with the Greens and Fine Gael, we have certainly lost the core and policy intentions that we would have.

“It is quite clear that we need an open discussion and debate about the future of the party, about the policies that we are pursuing,” said Mr McGuinness.

He added he is concerned about the impact of the referendum result on the upcoming local, European and general elections.

“The difference between the Government’s position and the people’s position is so significant that I believe that there is little time left for our Government to address the issues that affected that vote in terms of the economy and our society.

“I believe it will have a major impact on the local and European elections and the next general election.

“I think that the main breakdown has been trust and truthfulness, and the Government need to examine just how exactly they arrived at this position, because they’re certainly completely out of kilter with the electorate,” said Mr McGuinness.

Parliamentary party meetings are not happening this week because party leaders and ministers are away for St Patrick’s Day. The earliest these meetings can happen is Wednesday of next week.

Fianna Fáil TD for Tipperary Jackie Cahill said concerns and anger from backbenchers will be raised at next week’s parliamentary party meeting.

“This is a wake up call for us. I think it’s a clear signal that people out there feel they are not being listened to,” he said.

“We need to sit down as a party and discuss our strategy for the next election. And obviously those policies that we’re pursuing in government – the electorate don’t agree with them

“I think this was is a serious wake up call for us. We need to start listening to the ordinary people on the ground … we’re doing things in Government that they don’t agree with,” said Mr Cahill.

He added that backbenchers will still be angry and concerned when its parliamentary party meeting happens.

Fine Gael TD Ciarán Cannon

Meanwhile Fine Gael East Galway TD Ciarán Cannon said the loss in the referendums and the upcoming elections should not be conflated. He described the mood in Fine Gael as “one of disappointment”.

“It’s one of disappointment, one of reflection, one of soul searching. One of wondering where exactly this went wrong and what do we need to do to ensure that when we seek the support of the Irish people in changing our constitution in the future, we simply do that job better. That’s essentially the mood right now,” he said.

Asked about the fallout from the referendum result and the upcoming elections he said “the two things are more or less mutually exclusive”.

“I don’t think it’s possible or indeed wise to associate a very substantial loss in a referendum with perhaps similar losses in upcoming elections.

“I think they’re two distinctly separate things. I think really what we need to do here is to reflect and reflect deeply on how we approach this attempt … it was laudable and necessary, I would argue, to reform our constitution to make sure that it reflects the values of the Ireland of 2024, not 1937,” Mr Cannon said.

Analysis: Government with questions to answer in referendum fallout

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