Government says it can pass Budget despite shock exit
The Government last night said it had the numbers in the Dail to pass the Budget, despite the sudden resignation of former Fianna Fail TD Jim McDaid.
The former cabinet minister resigned just days after writing to Taoiseach Brian Cowen calling for a general election and warning the Government "will be paralysed by the political uncertainty and instability that awaits us in the spring of 2011".
Yet, in his letter of resignation, Dr McDaid said he was standing down for "purely personal reasons".
Ministers expressed surprise at their former colleague's decision to resign so suddenly -- a decision even his own constituency staff were not aware of.
The Coalition says it has a majority of three votes as it can call on 82 TDs, but it is now totally reliant on three more dissident Fianna Fail TDs and two Independents.
Fine Gael leader Enda Kenny said the Government had lost another man overboard.
Pointing to Dr McDaid's call for a general election, Mr Kenny said no one believed the Government anymore.
Wishing Dr McDaid well, the Taoiseach said he would expect a better sense of responsibility from the Fine Gael leader.
Dr McDaid lost the Fianna Fail party whip almost two years ago after opposing government policy on the cervical cancer vaccine for teenage girls.
He said yesterday he hoped his shock decision to quit politics would precipitate a general election in advance of next month's Budget and bring down the Government.
Dr McDaid wrong-footed even his closest allies when he tendered his resignation to the office of the Ceann Comhairle early yesterday morning, hours after attending a heated public meeting on health service cuts in his home town of Letterkenny, Co Donegal.
His resignation has reduced from six to four the number of TDs in the two Donegal constituencies. And it leaves four empty seats in the Dail as the Government awaits today's High Court ruling on whether it can be forced to hold by-elections within a specified period of time.
Although citing "purely personal reasons" for stepping down from the position he has held for the past 21 years, he also referred to a letter he had sent to Mr Cowen and Finance Minister Brian Lenihan a week ago in which he had called for an immediate general election.
Dr McDaid insisted the Government did not have the "arithmetic" to make the difficult decisions that had to be made. "In the interest of the citizens of this country, we should have the general election before the Budget," he said.
"I would like to see a Budget brought in by a government that had a majority of 20 to 30 seats that can go ahead.
"This Government cannot make those decisions under the current arithmetic."
Close political allies of Dr McDaid rallied to insist his decision was well known within the party beforehand, although it was clear the timing had taken even the staff in his constituency office by surprise.
His former director of elections, Terry McEniff, claimed he had known for days that Dr McDaid would be resigning before the end of the year.
He revealed that stress had been a factor in his arrival at that decision following a break away last week.
"He was coming away from being down the country last week in a stress-free zone. He realised he didn't need to be stressed out again," Mr McEniff said.
"It probably tilted the scales to make the final decision, but the decision was really made last week."
However, another source close to the party said his announcement had come "like a bolt out of the blue".
"Nobody saw it coming. I haven't spoken to anyone who had a clue that he would be tendering his resignation this morning. It has taken everyone by surprise," said the source.