Opposition wants earlier election


The main Opposition parties have called on the Government to give a commitment that it will seek to pass the Finance Bill by the end of the week or face a no confidence motion.

Responding to the decision by the Green Party to quit the Government today, the Labour Party has said it would stay its motion of no confidence in the Government on Wednesday if a commitment was given that the Finance Bill would be passed and the Dáil dissolved by Friday.

Labour's Pat Rabbitte said his party was "not averse" to co-operating with Mr Lenihan on easing the passage of the Bill. However, he said Fianna Fáil must realise that the lifetime of this Government was over and his party it would not support the "farce" of it remaining in power.

"What is going on here is an attempt by Fianna Fáil to protect the jobs of their own members and their own TDs."

Fine Gael’s deputy finance spokesman Brian Hayes confirmed there had been contacts last night with the Green Party on the Finance Bill and said he shared the Labour Party view that the legislation could be passed by Friday.

"It is Fine Gael’s view, as it is the Greens view, that the Dáil can be dissolved next Friday and that the Finance Bill can pass all stages in both Houses of the Oireachtas".

The party’s health spokesman Dr James Reilly said: “If there is a guarantee that the Finance Bill goes through at close of business on Friday and the Dail dissolves and the people get the election they have been waiting for, Fine Gael will withdraw its motion of no confidence.”

Yesterday, Fine Gael leader Enda Kenny said he would table a motion of no confidence in Taoiseach Brian Cowen unless he dissolved the Government.

Mr Kenny said it was “madness” for Mr Cowen to believe he could resign as Fianna Fáil leader yet remain as Taoiseach. “Brian Cowen should have gone to Áras an Uachtaráin and asked the President for a dissolution of the Dail,” he said.

However, speaking after the Green's announcement today, Mr Cowen said it would not be possible to deal with the Bill within one week as this timescale was unrealistic.

His stance appears to rule out the possibility of him going directly to the Aras to seek the dissolution of the Dáil and call an immediate election. He said in the Dáil this week he intended to hold the election on March 11th.

Minister for Finance Brian Lenihan will invite representatives of the Green Party and the Opposition to a meeting tomorrow to discuss the timetable for the passage of the Finance Bill. Mr Lenihan said today it was a "logistical impossibility" to pass the legislation in a week.

Sinn Féin said in a statement that it disagreed with the Green Party’s intention to pass the Finance Bill, calling it a “travesty of democracy”.

“The Dáil should be dissolved straight away and it is the people who should decide on the Finance Bill not a Dáil, the life of which has effectively ended. That Bill should not be put before the Dáil. The Government proposing the Bill no longer exists.”

The party’s Dáil leader Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin said it appeared that Fine Gael and Labour want to help the Taoiseach pass the Finance Bill so that a Fine Gael/Labour Government does not have to do so.