Timetable of Bill paves way for March election


THE HOLDING of a general election in late March now looks virtually certain following the circulation of the Government’s timetable for the passage of the Finance Bill through the Oireachtas.

The proposed legislation, which implements the terms of the December Budget, is to be published on January 20th and it is intended to pass second stage the following week.

A two-week period has been allocated for committee stage, with report stage a week later and the Bill being completed in the Seanad by February 25th. If an election were called on that day, polling would take place on a date between March 19th and 26th. However, the Finance Bill schedule has not yet been agreed with the Opposition.

Labour Party whip Emmet Stagg said yesterday Fianna Fáil was clinging to office as long as possible and the Green Party was being outwitted by its partners.

“The Dáil schedule of business for next week, which the Opposition whips have now received, includes none of the supposedly urgent business which Fianna Fáil and the Greens claim to want to see enacted,” he said in a statement.

Dismissing his comments as “absurd”, Dublin North Fianna Fáil TD Darragh O’Brien said: “The Climate Change Bill will commence in the Seanad next week. I would also reassure him that the other Bills he referenced will be dealt with in a speedy, but comprehensive fashion.”

Meanwhile, a prominent figure in the Northern Ireland peace process has compared Taoiseach Brian Cowen’s stance on the economy with Nobel prizewinner John Hume’s peacemaking role.

“It might seem strange to put Brian Cowen and his Government in the same bracket. But in the whirlwind of the last few years, Cowen’s Government has faced into the storm and taken the decisions that they thought right for the country,” Denis Bradley the former vice-chairman of the Northern Ireland Policing Board wrote in yesterday’s Irish News.

The latest Red C opinion poll on voting intentions, commissioned by Paddy Power bookmakers, shows Fine Gael at 35 per cent (+1), Labour 21 per cent (-2), Fianna Fáil 14 per cent (-3), Sinn Féin 14 per cent (no change), Green Party 4 per cent (+2), Independents/Other 12 per cent (+2).