The Government’s slim majority has been reduced to just four after Independent Galway West TD Noel Grealish lived up to his threat and voted against the Coalition.
“I have withdrawn my support from the Government and have voted against it,” Dep Grealish told the Galway Advertiser. “I have voted with the Opposition on two votes, including the motion to have the three by-elections held.”
Dep Grealish, who had been a Governmewnt backbench member since 2007, may continue to vote against the Government on all or many future votes - including December’s Budget.
Last Thursday Dep Grealish announced that he would not support any Government plans that would result in cutbacks to the health services, particularly to those in the west of Ireland.
The Government seemed to have taken Dep Grealish’s threat seriously as it was announced that An Taoiseach Brian Cowen and the Minister for Health Mary Harney sought meetings with Dep Grealish ahead of the votes.
“Mary Harney has told journalists that she wants to meet with me and it’s said the Taoiseach does as well and that these meetings are being organised, but I have heard nothing about them myself and nothing has been arranged,” said Dep Grealish.
The Carnmore man’s actions further reduce Brian Cowen’s ever dwindling majority, and could play a part in bringing the date of the next election to early in 2011, despite persistent protestations from the Taoiseach that it will not be until 2012.
While Dep Grealish voted against the Government yesterday, many of his critics doubt he will consistently vote with the Opposition, thereby helping to keep the Government in power, while appearing to the public as if he were an outspoken critic.
However Dep Grealish said would not hesitate to bring down the Government on an issue he feels strongly about.
“Issues may come up down the line which I may be able to support - Finian McGrath and Joe Behan sometimes vote with the Government - but I will take each vote as it comes. However if a vote comes up that I feel I cannot support or goes against the interests of my constituency and my voting against it would bring down the Government, then I would bring them down.”
Dep Grealish also responded to criticism of his stance on the issue of health cutbacks, saying he did not “pluck this from the air”, but in fact has been campaigning on this issue for the last year.
“I’m standing up for what I believe is right,” he says. “In my constituency and in the West of Ireland, there has been serious underfunding of the health service.
“I first brought up this issue as far back as February and again in May and I went to Mary Harney’s house in July to discuss it with her and I met her again in Leinster House with people from Galway University Hospital, where we outlined our stance on the issue. This is not a matter that I just came up with in the past week.”