Government to hold crunch talks with Independents

THE Government will hold last-minute talks with independent TDs today to ensure it can shore up support needed to push through tomorrow’s budget, which is being flagged as one of the harshest in living memory.

Fianna Fáil backbenchers said they are bracing themselves for a public backlash, particularly against cuts of around 10% to child benefit, which are expected to lead to protests outside the Dáil by parents’ groups.

Chief whip Pat Carey said, while he is “taking nothing for granted”, he is confident the Government will secure the support it needs to push through the €4 billion in cuts and savings to be outlined by Finance Minister Brian Lenihan tomorrow afternoon.

The cabinet will meet today to put the finishing touches to Budget 2010 which is likely to include reductions of €8 a week in the €200 dole payment, a cut of €15 a month in child benefit payments and reductions of between 5% and 6% in public sector wages, rising to 7% for those earning more than €100,000.

Three Fianna Fáil TDs who have lost the party whip – Jimmy Devins,Eamon Scanlon and Jim McDaid – as well as former Progressive Democrat Noel Grealish, have not yet guaranteed their support which the Government will need to pass the budget through the Dáil.

Independents Jackie Healy-Rae and Michael Lowry who support the Government are expected to continue to do so following tomorrow’s budget.

Mr Carey said: “I’m working quite closely with those people who have been supporting the Government and I’m hopeful will continue to do so over the next period.”


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