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Tempers fray as Lenihan gets Finance Bill through the Dail

A TESTY Brian Lenihan was yesterday involved in several spats as he succeeded in getting the Finance Bill through the Dail.

The bill passed through all stages by 81 votes to 76 and is set to become law once it is dealt with in the Seanad today and tomorrow.

But just 24 hours after losing the Fianna Fail leadership contest, the Minister for Finance was involved in several political rows during the debate on the bill.

He accused Labour leader Eamon Gilmore of displaying "considerable constitutional ignorance" for demanding a date for the general election.

And he clashed with Sinn Fein TD Arthur Morgan, saying he was trying to peddle "moonshine" (illegally brewed spirits such as poitin) by promising that the State would default on its bank debts.

"If we to talk about bailouts and the IMF, I notice the deputy (Mr Morgan) is very happy to participate in an administration in Northern Ireland that has been the subject matter of the biggest world bailout since 1922," he said.

After this dismissive reference to the British taxpayers' support for the North, Mr Lenihan saw the Finance Bill pass through the Dail.


He had to miss a Fianna Fail 'family photo' on the Leinster House plinth due to his presence in the Dail chamber during the debate.

Mr Lenihan had warned that the bill was key to implementing the Budget changes and securing the €85bn IMF/EU bailout deal.

Despite Mr Lenihan's previous claim that it would be "logistically impossible" to pass the bill by the end of the week, it was voted through all stages in the Dail by 3pm yesterday -- two hours earlier than expected.

And the bill included a 90pc tax on all future bank bonuses for senior officials, which is designed to effectively prevent the payment of all such bonuses by banks benefiting from the state guarantee.

The 'super tax' will not apply to bonuses below €20,000 for low-paid bank staff in call centres, who make most of their wages from bonuses.

Yesterday, Labour finance spokeswoman Joan Burton said it was time to call a halt to the "bonus culture" which had destroyed the banks in this country.

"This undoubtedly made many of the people at the top in the banks reckless in the extreme. They gave crazy loans for projects that would never happen," she said.

And Fine Gael finance spokesman Michael Noonan dismissed the argument that the taxpayer should pay for bonuses for investment bankers (such as those in AIB) just because their particular section was making money.

Irish Independent