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Tuesday 12 December 2017

Dail will vote 'yes' to €85bn IMF/EU bailout

Michael Brennan Deputy Political Editor

FG will join Labour, Sinn Fein and rebel Fianna Fail TD Mattie McGrath to oppose the vote

THE Government is certain to win this week's Dail vote on the €85bn bailout after getting the backing of Independent TD Joe Behan.

The deal will now go ahead despite Fine Gael's announcement that it will join with Labour, Sinn Fein and rebel Independent Fianna Fail TD Mattie McGrath in opposing the vote on Wednesday.

The IMF had postponed a meeting to approve its part of the rescue plan -- which includes €17.5bn of funding from the National Pensions Reserve Fund -- until after the Dail vote.

But Independent Wicklow TD Joe Behan last night said he would support the Government again -- after having controversially backed last week's cost-cutting Budget.

"I'm supporting it on the basis that it's the only way we can get this money to survive as an economy over the next three years and pay for our public sector and social services," Mr Behan said.

He dismissed suggestions that his support for the Government after quitting Fianna Fail over the medical cards issue two years ago was a tactical ploy to rejoin the party.

"I've no intention of returning to Fianna Fail. The meaning of an 'Independent' to some people is that you are 'independent against the Government'. To me, it's that you think for yourself and make decisions in the best interests of the country," he said.

The Government had been put under pressure when Fine Gael announced yesterday that it would be voting against the deal, along with Labour and Sinn Fein and Independent Fianna Fail TD Mattie McGrath.

Mr McGrath said last night he believed the deal needed to be renegotiated because the 5.8pc interest rate was too high.

"I never bought a car I couldn't afford. I can't see us being able to maintain the payments at those rates of interest," he said.

Without Mr Behan's support there was a risk of a tie of 80 votes to 80 in the Dail, with the casting vote of Ceann Comhairle Seamus Kirk required to endorse the deal.

The IMF said that while Dail approval of the EU-IMF support package was not legally required, the Government had said it wanted to put the deal to a vote to "strengthen political support for the agreement".

Fine Gael last night confirmed the party would vote against the bailout deal.


A spokeswoman justified the stance on the ground that it had better relations in Europe and would be able to get a better deal. She said the IMF had told Fine Gael that it would welcome any initiative that would overhaul the public sector and increase economic recovery as long as it was within the "broad parameters" of the deal.

Fine Gael enterprise spokesman Richard Bruton said he believed it was realistic to try to renegotiate the deal -- even the 5.8pc interest rate, which he said was too high.

"I don't think it's in anybody's best interests if Ireland failed, and I think there is an understanding in Europe of that," he said.

Mr Bruton said his party had extra "leverage" through its membership of the European People's Party umbrella group in the EU Parliament, which counts the party of German Chancellor Angela Merkel among its members.

The Labour Party and Sinn Fein are both set to oppose the bailout deal. Sinn Fein finance spokesman Pearse Doherty said his party wanted the IMF to "go home".

"What the Irish State is trying to do is turn a bank debt, a private debt, into a sovereign debt. The money saved in the harsh Budget will go to the banks," he told RTE's 'This Week'.

Maurice Hayes

Irish Independent

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