Independents and defectors ‘ready to back budget’

THE Government is confident of shoring up enough support to push through the harshest budget in years following a number of meetings with independent TDs and Fianna Fáil defectors whose votes are crucial to pass it in the Dáil.

Former Progressive Democrat TD, Noel Grealish, who had threatened to further reduce the Government’s wafer-thin majority, has still not guaranteed his vote for the budget following talks with the Taoiseach last night.

He will meet with Brian Cowen this morning in a last-minute effort to secure a number of measures for his Galway West constituency in exchange for his Dáil vote.

Three Fianna Fáil TDs who have lost the party whip – Jim McDaid, Jimmy Devins and Eamon Scanlon – have not yet guaranteed their vote, which is dependent on how the budget affects their constituents.

But their support is widely expected following a range of meetings in recent days with Government representatives.

The support of all four men is crucial for the Government which is certain of just 81 votes compared with the opposition’s 79.

Before last night’s meeting with the Taoiseach, Deputy Grealish warned his support would not be forthcoming unless there was a substantial aid-package for flood victims in Galway.

“There is a major issue regarding the flooding in Galway and in the west so I will be raising that issue. It is of huge concern to me,” he said.

Funding for a number of schools in Galway and road projects also formed part of his shopping list, but he insisted last night that he wanted to keep discussions with the Taoiseach “between the two of us”.

The Taoiseach met late last night with Tipperary North Independent Michael Lowry, who was seeking clarification on a number of promises made in return for his support of Government.

“I’ve had a good working relationship with the Government in the interest of constituents and I’m satisfied that the Government have been honourable to our agreement,” he said.

Kerry-South Independent TD, Jackie Healy-Rae, said he will continue to support the Government, but was vague on what he achieved in exchange for his support.

“Some of the things that I wanted to get sorted out are really finalised and one of them is a new 42-bed hospital for Kenmare. There will be other infrastructure and jobs including facilities for tourists and roads and things like that,” he said.


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