Coalition hoping votes of two Independents will save Budget
SINN Fein's win in the Donegal South West by-election narrows the majority of the Coalition put together by former Taoiseach Bertie Ahern after the 2007 General Election to just two votes.
Taoiseach Brian Cowen is now depending on two Independents to pass the Budget.
Sinn Fein Senator Pearse Doherty took the seat vacated almost 18 months ago by Fianna Fail MEP Pat 'the Cope' Gallagher's election to the European Parliament.
But the Government is still confident it has the votes to pass the December 7 Budget.
Government Chief Whip John Curran, the minister responsible for organising votes, repeatedly claims the Coalition can count on 82 votes in the Dail:
Dail Eireann normally has 166 TDs, but three seats are still empty, following the resignations of former Fine Gael TD George Lee in Dublin South, former Fianna Fail cabinet minister Martin Cullen on health grounds and Fianna Fail's Dr Jim McDaid earlier this month.
Provided the Coalition gets everybody to vote, it should still reach the magic number of 82 for a majority.
In order to defeat the Budget and topple the Government, everybody on the opposition side would have to turn up to vote against it and there would still have to be further defections from the Coalition side -- not just abstentions.