Monday 19 February 2018

Coalition gets ‘yes’ vote from TDs after key deals

Michael Brennan and Fiach Kelly

INDEPENDENT TDs Michael Lowry and Jackie Healy-Rae are set to back the "harsh" Budget today in return for promised funding for their pet projects.

These include the €100m Tralee bypass and a new community hospital in Kenmare for Kerry’s Healy-Rae, and the speeding up of consideration for a super casino in Tipperary for Mr Lowry.

The support of the two TDs is crucial for the Government, which only has an 82-80 majority. Mr Lowry said yesterday there was no alternative to passing the “harsh” Budget, and added that Mr Healy-Rae would also vote for it pending clarification on one issue.

“I believe I have to do what is in the best interests of the country. I have to set aside whatever difficulties that this decision may cause for me in my own constituency and I believe I have to do the right thing,” Mr Lowry said.

The Tipperary North TD said he was not negotiating with the Government but was making his position clear on a number of matters, such as protecting free travel, electricity and televisions for the elderly.

“I’m happy that I made my views known, that I got a reasonably positive reaction to a number of aspects of the Budget I raised with the minister and with the Government,” Mr Lowry said.

He is supporting a “supercasino” in Two-Mile Borris in Tipperary, which he says will create 2,000 jobs, but he said he made no demands on the issue. He added a report on updating the gambling laws would go to Cabinet next week.

Yesterday, Mr Healy-Rae insisted that a new community hospital in Kenmare in Kerry would be built in return for his support for the Budget.

“I spoke with Brian Cowen last Wednesday evening inside in his office with Gerry Steadman, his adviser. And the man guaranteed me: ‘I will not leave you down for the Kenmare Hospital. It’s on top of the list,’” he said.

Fine Gael Dublin South East TD Lucinda Creighton said yesterday she had steam coming out of her ears listening to the reports about the demands of the two Independent TDs. “It's appalling,” she said.

Mr Healy-Rae told Radio Kerry that the Tralee bypass would also go ahead – which will see 13km of roadway built around the town. Even though it was not in his Kerry South constituency, it would have benefits for the entire country and people in west Limerick and north Cork as well, he said.

“When I realised this had the potential to give employment to 3,500 people to build it and 4,500 jobs long term, I got my shoulder behind the wheel.”

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