The way has been cleared for a general election on February 25th following agreement between the Government and main Opposition parties to get the Finance Bill through the Dáil and Seanad by the end of this week.
Agreement on the timetable for the Finance Bill was reached in talks at the Department of Finance yesterday between Minister for Finance Brian Lenihan and the finance spokespersons of the other parties.
The deal involves the Finance Bill passing all stages in the Dáil by Thursday evening. All other business, including questions to the Taoiseach, will be set aside when the Dáil resumes today.
The Seanad will meet on Friday and Saturday to approve the legislation. The parties have agreed that if necessary the Dáil can meet again on Saturday evening if flaws in the legislation are identified.
Government Chief Whip John Curran said Mr Lenihan told Opposition finance spokepersons a second Finance Bill would be needed later this year to deal with the tax implications of civil partnership.
“Particularly he specified that there had been plans and provisions and work done in relation to tax affairs that would fall as a consequence of civil partnership,” he told RTÉ’s Morning Ireland today. “That can’t be dealt with in the current timeframe and all the Opposition spokespersons were conscious of that and indicated that when a new government is formed a new Finance Bill to give effect to these measures will be required.”
Yesterday’s agreement between the parties originated with Green Party TD Eamon Ryan, who contacted Fine Gael’s Simon Coveney last Saturday offering to speed up the Finance Bill if Fine Gael and Labour would agree to defer their motions of no confidence in the Taoiseach and the Government.
Mr Ryan said the deal showed the political parties could do business in the interests of the country. “A bit of calm and order has been restored to the political system and that can only be a good thing,” he said.
Mr Lenihan also welcomed the agreed timetable. “I thank the Greens, Fine Gael and Labour for their constructive approach.” He also welcomed that agreement had been reached on an additional day of consideration in the Seanad to allow for appropriate reflection on the text and further consideration of the Bill.
“I think it’s a good day’s work, and it is important for the country that we are seen to unite at least in dealing with this measure,” he said.
The Minister said he would have preferred a fortnight to discuss the Bill but that once Opposition parties had cleared all other Dáil business, it was feasible to pass it in the time agreed. The motions of no confidence will be deferred until this day week and will be debated if the Dáil has not been dissolved by that stage.
However, the expectation is that Taoiseach Brian Cowen will go to Áras an Uachtaráin to seek a dissolution of the Dáil before those motions come up for debate. He is not obliged to go into the Dáil to announce his decision but he may do so at the start of business next Tuesday. Asked if the agreement on the timetable meant the general election would now take place on February 25th, Fine Gael finance spokesman Michael Noonan said he expected the Taoiseach would call the election on Sunday or Monday but added that Mr Cowen may want to go into the Dáil on Tuesday morning to deliver a valedictory speech: “I can’t predict, but it’s some time within that time frame,” he added.
Labour Party leader Eamon Gilmore said the tabling of his party’s motion of no confidence and the agreement on the timetable for the Finance Bill meant that the people would get what they had been demanding for many months, an early general election.
He said Labour remained strongly opposed to major provisions of the Finance Bill and would table amendments in the normal way. Independent TDs Michael Lowry and Jackie Healy-Rae will decide on their support for the Bill after a meeting with Minister for Finance Brian Lenihan today. Another Independent, Joe Behan, has already said he will back the Bill.
Earlier in Brussels the European Commission said it was important for Ireland’s credibility and stability that the Finance Bill was passed by the Dáil as soon as possible.
Two prominent Fianna Fáil TDs, Ned O’Keeffe and Noel Ahern, announced last night at party selection conventions that they would not be contesting the election. Fianna Fáil Galway East TD Noel Treacy said this morning he was unable to contest the general election for medical reasons.
I fail to understand why the established political parties are pushing through the Finance Bill when they all say they are against it ,This shows that the differences between them is wafer thin also one must ask why the rush are they try to scupper the attempts of the Independents to get themselves elected
Just listen to Rosin Shorthall in the clip again
In Wicklow there are approximately 130,000 voters and with less than 30 days left now to the General election as an independent I have no hope of reaching all of these voters with my merger finances and resources (Manpower) .The established political parties believe the Dail is their private club house and as Rosin said we the independents are just a “Rag Bag”.I am also not “Hard Left”
You can prove her wrong and show her and all the other political elite that the Dail in for all the citizens of Ireland