Healy-Rae and Lowry to support Budget for a 'price'
THE Government remains confident it will have the support of Independent TDs to pass the Budget -- but it will come at a political price.
Independent TDs Michael Lowry and Jackie Healy-Rae hold the balance of power as Taoiseach Brian Cowen's coalition majority has been whittled down to just two votes.
Mr Lowry and Mr Healy-Rae will get responses today on a number of local issues they are enquiring about.
But there is a sense the pair are milking the attention for all its worth and are simply going through the motions before ultimately voting for the Budget.
Within government circles there is no sense of urgency that they will pull the plug, and ministers remain confident the Budget will pass with their support.
The Independents are getting personal meetings with Mr Lenihan, Government Chief Whip John Curran and Mr Cowen's special adviser, Gerry Steadman.
Mr Lowry is looking for progress on changes to gambling legislation to pave the way for the development of a casino in North Tipperary.
A report on gaming laws, commissioned by Justice Minister Dermot Ahern, has been circulated to cabinet members and a decision on accepting its recommendations is expected before Christmas.
However, there is no hope of complex legislation in this area being passed in the short remaining lifetime of this Government, so Mr Lowry will have to take his chances with a new administration next year.
Both Independents are understood to have a number of local projects that they don't want to see cut, but also realise the importance of the Budget being passed.
The special treatment being afforded to the Independent TDs is raising eyebrows in Fianna Fail.
Fianna Fail TD Ned O'Keeffe said makes party backbenchers "look like doormats".
"I can't understand how two people are going to decide the future of the country and the budget," he said.
"The Minister for Finance is treating those Fianna Fail backbenchers like doormats. It's a joke. The Fianna Fail backbenchers are a skit.
"Brian Lenihan will go down in history as Ireland's worst Minister for Finance. No doubt in my mind," he said.