A PLEA for Fianna Fáil rebels to rally behind the Government was issued by Brian Cowen last night as he faced into a succession of knife-edge votes when the Dáil returns.
The embattled Taoiseach offered an olive branch to the four TDs who quit the parliamentary party due to issues centred on their constituencies. Mr Cowen noted the four had continued to back the Government on the main decisions, but made it clear he would like to see them returned officially to the party fold.
When the Dáil returns from its 81-day summer break on September 29, Mr Cowen’s Government – which is technically a minority administration relying on the four whip-less TDs to survive – faces a rough ride towards the budget.
Mr Cowen said the rebels would be welcome back.
“They are supporting the Government on all the major issues of the day. From our point of view they left the parliamentary party on the basis of local issues, but we are very conscious they continue to support the Government.
“It is a matter we would like to see resolved – it’s a matter for them to consider. The party is united behind the budgetary policies that we are pursuing,” he said.
No formal negotiations have opened with the four – Jimmy Devins, Eamon Scanlan, Jim McDaid and Mattie McGrath – according to FF chief whip John Curran, though he said he spoke to them regularly.
Joe Behan also quit FF over education cuts in the first emergency budget, but his split with the party is seen as more permanent and is usually counted as an opposition vote.
The Government’s position in the Dáil is fragile, with 70 whipped FF TDs, two supporting independents, the two former PDs and the six Greens giving it an assured strength of 80 – the whip-less four then push it to 84 against a combined opposition tally of 78 with three seats vacant and the Ceann Comhairle taken into account.
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