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'You have nothing to offer' - Lenihan kicks out SF

SINN FEIN were booted out of the Department of Finance by a stern Brian Lenihan last night who told them: "You have nothing to offer."

Politicians are set to endure a Saturday session of work as they rush for a February 25 election.

Sitting TDs and senators are going to miss out on a full week of canvassing in order to pass a half-finished Finance Bill.

In a rare moment of political consensus among the main parties, it was agreed to put aside all differences to allow the election date move forward by two weeks.

However, Sinn Fein were repeatedly asked to leave the cross-party meeting because they refused to co-operate.

Sinn Fein were the only party not interested in reaching a compromise on the Finance Bill which our EU lenders say is necessary to ensure further funding.

Pearse Doherty -- who is only a TD since late November -- said the inter-party agreement by Fianna Fail, Fine Gael, Labour and the Green Party was "nothing short of disgusting".

He confirmed that the SF delegation initially refused to leave the meeting but then agreed to exit the building during an interval.


It is now expected that Taoiseach Brian Cowen will dissolve the Dail next Tuesday after allowing retiring TDs to make farewell speeches.

The Cabinet met this morning so that the Finance Minister could present a number of amendments to the Bill.

And Government chief whip John Curran said that all "normal business" of the Dail had been "moved aside". "The only business to be conducted during the three days in the Dail this week will be the Finance Bill," he said.

However, he accepted that a second Finance Bill would have to be introduced after the election. Some sections of the Bill published last Friday will be omitted in order to allow it pass quickly.

These include provisions on civil partnership that will now have to be taken up by the next Government.

"We have indicated that whoever forms the new Government will have to revisit it," said Mr Curran.

Both the Finance Minister and Taoiseach had initially argued that it would a "logistical impossibility" to pass a Finance Bill in one week but they were forced into yet another U-turn as the Opposition threatened to spark an immediate election.

After the meeting Mr Lenihan welcomed the agreement and thanked the Opposition parties, including the Greens, for "their constructive approach".

The Dail will be on standby with a quorum of 20 TDs on Saturday evening to deal with any recommendations on the Bill that may come from the Seanad.

Fine Gael and Labour have said that they will press motions of no confidence in the Taoiseach and Government if the Dail if an election is not officially called by next Tuesday.


FG finance spokesman Michael Noonan said: "The Government doesn't have a majority any more, the Opposition together have a majority.

"While everyone was reasonable, it was the obvious alternative to a vote of no confidence that everyone would lose."