Budget vote on track despite Independent TD's 'wobble'
TAOISEACH Brian Cowen's prospects of passing the Budget still appeared to be on track last night despite a wobble from one of the Independent TDs he is relying upon for support.
Mr Cowen is depending on Tipperary North TD Michael Lowry and Kerry South's Jackie Healy-Rae to pass the Budget as his Coalition's majority is now down to just two.
Government sources were saying they were confident, but not certain, that both would vote for the Budget.
But Mr Healy-Rae last night claimed it was "very doubtful" he would do so.
However, he could not outline a single reason for opposing the Budget and said people had "some cheek" to even ask him.
And the Kerry South TD has a long history of threatening to vote against the Government before backing down.
Meanwhile Mr Lowry last night said Ireland could not be seen to fall at the "first hurdle" of passing the €6bn plan of cuts and tax hikes to be outlined next week.
Both TDs are due to meet Finance Minister Brian Lenihan on Thursday to discuss the Budget.
Mr Lowry also backed the EU-IMF bailout deal, saying the interest rate of 5.8pc was similar to Greece's lower rate since Ireland was paying over a much longer term.
"People are telling me there is now certainty and we can work on from this for growth," he said, adding the interest rate gave Ireland "breathing space to work out its affairs".
"We have a course now to be charted," he said. "It's up to us to get on with it."
He repeated his claims that politicians must take pay cuts in the Budget in order to set an example to people facing a drop in living standards over the next four years.
Mr Lowry also said he would take account of the national interest, as well as his own local interests.
But it is still unclear what way Fine Gael and Labour will vote, with both parties refusing to commit themselves until Mr Lenihan has delivered the pre-election Budget next Tuesday.
Both parties are vehemently opposed to the EU-IMF bailout, with Labour saying the country is "banjaxed" and Fine Gael calling the deal "hugely disappointing".
Fine Gael said it agreed that €6bn must be saved next year but the party has not yet decided if it will vote for the Budget. A party spokesman said the decision would only be made after Mr Lenihan delivered the Budget next Tuesday.
The Labour Party -- which believes €4.5bn rather than €6bn should be cut next year -- said it would examine the Budget and its legislation, such as the Finance and Social Welfare Bills, as they arose.
"Eamon Gilmore has said on a number of occasions that the Labour Party is not going to give Fianna Fail any blank cheque in relation to this Budget," a spokeswoman said.
"There is no vote on the Budget as such. There will be a number of votes on financial resolutions on the Budget night."