FF TDs 'are ready for tough budget'


GOVERNMENT CHIEF whip Pat Carey has said he believes Government backbenchers are prepared for Wednesday’s tough budget.

“We have spent a lot of time outlining to the parliamentary party, and the broader public, the reasons for cutbacks,’’ he said.

“Even before our autumn party meeting in Athlone, we had a couple of meetings and, later, about seven or eight parliamentary party meetings dealing with each government department.’’

Mr Carey, who was attending a commissioning ceremony for reserve Defence Force officers in the Curragh, told The Irish Timesthat backbenchers knew what the issues were and the “need to take decisive action’’.

A three-line whip, requiring the presence of all Fianna Fáil TDs, has been imposed for Wednesday’s budget votes. All shades of political opinion in Leinster House believe the Government will have comfortable majorities in Wednesday night’s divisions.

“We will challenge backbenchers to vote against the harsh measures, but we know there is no prospect of any of them doing so,” said an opposition source.

It is expected that the three Fianna Fáil backbenchers without the party whip, Dr Jim McDaid, Dr Jimmy Devins and Eamon Scanlon, as well as the two Independents supporting the Government, Jackie Healy-Rae and Michael Lowry, will vote for the budget.

Mr Carey said that he was “taking nothing for granted’’ about the vote. He added that as well as himself, the Taoiseach and others would be keeping in touch with backbenchers and Independents “who have been very loyal’’ to ensure that they understood why the budgetary measures were being taken.

Meanwhile, a number of Fianna Fáil backbench TDs yesterday voiced strong opposition to public service reform being contingent on pay increases.

In a sign of a hardening of attitude within the party on this issue, Sean Connick (Wexford), Niall Collins (Limerick East) and Chris Andrews (Dublin South East) separately said reform should be ongoing and not in exchange for pay. “Reform should be an everyday thing. I don’t understand the logic that it can’t be delivered unless public servants are rewarded,” Mr Collins said.

Mr Andrews said Mr Cowen found himself in a more difficult position this week than any political leader had for many years.

“He could not be accused of not working it and looking at both sides of the argument,” he said.