Budget at risk as Healy-Rae, Lowry desert government
INDEPENDENT TDs Michael Lowry and Jackie Healy-Rae were under fire last night for "trying to desert" the Government ahead of the Green Party.
Both announced it was highly unlikely they would vote for the Budget on December 7 -- depriving the Government of the two votes it needed to get the €6bn of cutbacks passed.
But their move -- which came less than an hour after the Green Party made it clear they would be leaving the Government in January -- was criticised by the opposition.
Fine Gael Kerry South TD Tom Sheahan said it was clear Mr Lowry and Mr Healy-Rae had wanted to be the first to call time on the Government.
"I think they were gazumped by the Green Party. They tried to get out first but it didn't work out for them," he said.
Both TDs had signed private deals with the Government in June 2007 to gain grants and other benefits for their constituencies of Tipperary North and Kerry South in return for their voting support.
They had voted for the Government's cost-cutting budgets and other controversial measures such as the National Asset Management Agency.
The Government's majority of three is likely to be cut to two if it loses the Donegal South West by-election on Thursday and it will rely on the support of the two Independent TDs to pass the Budget.
Mr Lowry called on Fine Gael and Labour to agree to support the Government's Budget.
He said every serious commentator agreed Ireland simply cannot afford not to pass a Budget in early December.
"Therefore it would be an astonishing political failure on the part of Labour and Fine Gael if, for political advantage, they do not join with Mr Lenihan in seeking to agree on the broad measures to be contained in this vital budget," he added.
But Mr Sheahan said Mr Lowry was only looking for "political cover" from the opposition -- which he would not get.
Labour justice spokesman Pat Rabbitte said it was remarkable Mr Lowry and Mr Healy-Rae were now in a competition with the Green Party to see who can desert the ship first.
He said the Government-supporting Independents had "milked the system for small favours".
"I wouldn't like to be a defencless person on the Titanic with Michael Lowry and Jackie Healy-Rae elbowing for space," he told RTE.
Mr Healy-Rae said it was "very, very unlikely" that he would support the Budget. He also said he was opposed to increases in third-level charges and cuts to the old-age pension.
"I don't want fees for students doubled because they won't be able to go anymore.
"If I see fairness in the Budget, I'll support it definitely. If I don't, I'll vote against it," he said.