THE GOVERNMENT comfortably won Dáil approval for the controversial €85 billion rescue package from the European Union and International Monetary Fund
When the vote was taken yesterday, the Fianna Fáil and Green coalition supported by three independents won backing for the motion by 81 votes to 75.
The Fianna Fáil TD Mattie McGrath, however, voted against the Government.
The vote came at the end of a two-hour Dáil debate which contained some heated exchanges. Minister for Finance Brian Lenihan said the suggestion that the Opposition could negotiate a better interest rate from the IMF was “frankly laughable”. “The rate of interest charged by the IMF is calculated using the standard formula which it applies to all countries.”
In response, Fine Gael’s finance spokesman Michael Noonan said the deal was an obscenity for taxpayers. “The Government’s negotiations have led to a very bad deal. The deal needs to be renegotiated and Fine Gael will look for a mandate to do so,” Mr Noonan said.
Fine Gael leader Enda Kenny said the Government’s so-called recovery plan, which underpinned the EU-IMF rescue package, showed that it had learnt absolutely nothing from the crisis of the past two years.
“We will not restore confidence in our economy unless we credibly cap the taxpayers’ exposure to the banking system, while also pursuing new policies to support growth and jobs in parallel to the fiscal adjustments,’’ said Mr Kenny.
Labour leader Eamon Gilmore said his party was opposing the measure because what was on offer was a bad deal for Ireland.
“In the coming election, we will seek a mandate to renegotiate the programme,” he added.
“It is not good enough, frankly, for the European Commission to treat Ireland as a contagion risk that has to be contained, no matter what the cost to the people of Ireland. It was Fianna Fáil, the bankers and the property developers who caused this, not the people.” Sinn Féin also opposed the bailout.
Green Party backbencher Paul Gogarty accused Taoiseach Brian Cowen of failing to admit that Ireland had been bullied by its European colleagues when securing the €85 billion EU-IMF bailout package.
He said when the details of the bailout were leaked by the international press to the Irish media, Mr Cowen had an opportunity “to tell the country that our European colleagues are bullying and putting pressure on us to protect the euro zone and European stability . . . and that we would help them as a sovereign nation and member of the union but we would do so on our terms’’.
He added: “That was not done, and it is part of the reason the Green Party announced it is leaving the Government. We believe this Government has reached the end of its shelf life. Once we have done our duty for this country, we will go to the people.”
The Green Party, said Mr Gogarty, was doing its duty in passing the deal, which was the best that could be done in the circumstances. Independents Jackie Healy-Rae, Michael Lowry and Joe Behan voted with the Government, while Fianna Fáil backbencher Mattie McGrath, who is without the parliamentary party whip, voted with the Opposition.
Sinn Féin finance spokesman Pearse Doherty said the Government had brought the bailout package before the Dáil only because his party had threatened to bring the Government to the High Court to prove that it would be unconstitutional not to do so.