No budget defection fears, says Coalition

Wed, Dec 12, 2012, 00:00

The two Coalition parties said last night they were confident there will be no defections by Fine Gael or Labour TDs on the most controversial measures contained in the budget.

The whips of both parties expressed confidence that all 74 Fine Gael TDs and the 33 Deputies from Labour in the parliamentary party would vote in all the crucial votes touching on last week’s budget that take place in the Dáil this week.

Government Chief Whip Paul Kehoe said he was not expecting any Fine Gael TD to vote against the Government when divisions are called on the Social Welfare Bill and the Sinn Féin motion of no confidence in the Government.

Similarly, Labour whip Emmet Stagg said he was “quietly confident without taking anything for granted”.

In the run-up to the beginning of the debate on the Social Welfare Bill last night, there was a sustained and forceful strategy being employed by the Opposition to put pressure on Labour backbench TDs who have expressed concerns or unhappiness about the budget.

As further protests against cuts to respite care grants took place outside Leinster House, Sinn Féin and other parties and Independents separately said they would challenge Labour Party TDs to have the courage of their convictions.

Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin said he would force votes “line by line” on the Social Welfare Bill.

During ill-tempered exchanges with Fine Gael leader Enda Kenny in the Dáil, Sinn Féin leader Gerry Adams described the respite care grant as reprehensible. “You weren’t sent in here to take money from carers, you weren’t sent in here to impose a tax on the family home or take money off children and parents who need it,” Mr Adams told the Dáil.

Populist tactics

The Taoiseach attacked the Opposition for using populist tactics, accusing Mr Martin of trying to shame Labour Party backbenchers into submission. “This budget . . . is not about Fine Gael or about Labour. It’s about Ireland and the people,” he said.

The United Left Alliance also focused its criticisms on Labour and said it was organising a protest outside the Dáil to coincide with the vote.

People Before Profit TD Richard Boyd Barrett urged Labour Party TDs to make good on the promise made by the party in the general election in February 2011 that it would not cut child benefit.

Labour Deputies have privately conceded that none of the more controversial measures will be reversed.