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Greens refuse to guarantee Budget support

THE Green Party warned today that they would not pass the toughest Budget in the country's history for the sake of it.

As battle lines were drawn between the coalition partners, Green chairman Dan Boyle admitted that certain areas will have to be off limits.

However, he accepted that college registration fees would rise substantially, saying the alternative would be fees of €10,000.

The senator accepted that education would be hit but hastened to add that key areas would have to remain untouched if the Greens are to support Brian Lenihan on December 7.

The Fianna Fail/Green Government currently has a slim majority of four in Leinster House with the Green Party holding six seats.

"We're not going to agree to anything for the sake of it and that's why there is a very difficult Budget process ahead," said Mr Boyle.

"Whether we leave Government or not, it'll be on an issue of importance," he said, adding: "The truth is that everyone in our society is going to be hit by this Budget."

Mr Boyle was speaking on Newstalk's Breakfast Show, where he was asked what the breaking points could be for the Greens.

He replied that the Programme for Government was very clear about capital grants, pupil-teacher ratios and the non-introduction of fees.

"If fees were reintroduced now they would be in the region of €10,000," he said, while admitting: "It's clear that there will be cuts in the education budget as there will be in every department."

He confirmed that an increase in college registration fees will form part of the education review but said the amount hadn't yet been agreed.

"I think we still have four to five days of hard talking."

As political manoeuvring by all parties increased significantly over the weekend, ministers repeated warnings that everything remains on the table.

At a Fianna Fail conference over the weekend Minister Eamon O Cuiv confirmed reports in last week's Herald that massive social welfare cuts could be expected.

Many of the State benefits that have been in place for decades are set to come under close scrutiny in the coming weeks.

One possibility is that pensions and dole payments could be reduced by 2.5pc and 5pc respectively.

Mr O Cuiv said his Department of Social Protection could expect to see its €21bn budget substantially slashed on December 7.

It accounts for around 38pc of all current spending by the Government and is therefore in the frontline for cuts.