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Greens demand general election before end of March

Junior coalition party the Greens today called for a general election to be held before the end of March.

After talks with Taoiseach Brian Cowen, party leader John Gormley said voters wanted to go to the polls as soon as possible.

"We do need an election in March, it's absolutely imperative, and as far as we are concerned to let it drift beyond into April would be unacceptable," Mr Gormley said.

It is understood Mr Cowen met Mr Gormley for more than an hour and a half today at Government Buildings to discuss a timetable for the election and passing the Finance Bill and other legislation.

Mr Gormley said the Finance Bill, which gives effect to Budget measures, could be passed by the end of February.

The Greens leader declined to indicate when the poll will take place although March 25 has been speculated as possible date.

Green Senator Dan Boyle said the party did not fear a potential backlash from voters.

"We don't fear an election, we've never feared being a party that was willing to say things that were unpopular and to stand by our actions when we believe they were the right things to do," he told RTE Radio.

Earlier, Mr Cowen confirmed he would take over the Foreign Affairs portfolio after rebel minister Micheal Martin quit in the wake of his failed leadership challenge.

Mr Cowen said the resignation had been accepted by President Mary McAleese and he would take over the role for the "time being".

PA Media