At a parliamentary party meeting, a motion calling for the order to be retained, tabled by former minister Ned O’Keeffe, was strongly backed. Only two of 20 speakers on the issue favoured abolition.
While a vote was not taken, the outcome was seen as a warning shot for minister for enterprise and trade Micheál Martin, who has promised a decision on the order this month, and who has said its retention was “not tenable”. He has undertaken to have “further consultations” with his backbench critics, many of whom represent rural constituencies and fear for the future of local shops.
For Taoiseach Bertie Ahern, the issue is complicated by the fact that his coalition junior partner, the Progressive Democrats, is insisting the order be abolished in order to promote competition.