Finance Bill passed by Dáil
The Finance Bill has been passed in the Dáil this afternoon and will now go to the Seanad for approval.
The fifth stage of the Bill passed by 81 votes to 76 shortly before 3pm. The Dáil has now been adjourned until 8pm on Saturday night.
The Bill passed its second and committee stages yesterday after support from independents Michael Lowry and Jackie Healy-Rae.
The decision of two Independent TDs to back the Finance Bill cleared the way for it to pass all stages in the Dáil, leaving the way open for Taoiseach Brian Cowen to call an election within days.
The Seanad will meet tomorrow and Saturday to approve the Bill and, if necessary, the Dáil will sit on Saturday evening to debate any further amendments to the Bill.
It is unlikely the Dáil will have to meet on Saturday, but the option is there if, after the Seanad debate, Minister for Finance Brian Lenihan and his officials feel the need to correct any flaws in the Bill.
Over 20 TDs have been put on standby to form a Dáil quorum if the House is required to meet on Saturday evening.
Mr Cowen may call an election at any stage after the Bill is passed on Saturday but it is widely expected he will come into the Dáil chamber on Tuesday to announce his decision to seek a dissolution from President Mary McAleese and to name the date of the election.
Independent TDs Mr Lowry and Mr Healy-Rae had separate meetings with the Taoiseach and Mr Lenihan yesterday morning before agreeing to vote in favour of the Finance Bill following agreement on a number of changes.
Former Fianna Fáil TD Mattie McGrath abstained in the formal vote on the Bill, leaving the Government with a majority of three on the crucial second-stage vote.
Mr Lowry and Mr Healy-Rae said afterwards the Government had already conceded their earlier call to reduce the universal social charge on medical card holders but they had other concerns that had to be addressed.
Mr Lowry said the basic problem arose from the fact that the Finance Bill contained a number of significant changes from the Budget.
The main change agreed as a result of pressure from the two Independents was the dropping of a provision that would have brought forward preliminary tax payments on the self-employed from the end of October to the end of September.
“This measure would also have serious consequences for farmers because the single farm payment will not have been paid by the 30th of September, leaving farmers with no financial resources to make that payment before the deadline,” said Mr Lowry.
Another major issue for the two Independents was the introduction of a 90 per cent tax rate on bank bonuses.
“It is appalling and unacceptable that the proposed taxation measures on bankers’ bonuses were not to be dealt with because of the time restriction placed by Labour and Fine Gael on the passage of the Bill,” said Mr Lowry.