Independent TDs have joined with the opposition parties to pile pressure on the crumbling Dublin government to pull the plug after the Green Party finally succumbed to public outrage and said it is set to pull out.
The Greens have called for an election to be called by the end of January, but the opposition parties and the public are clamouring for Brian Cowen’s renegade regime to quit as soon as possible.
With negotiations on an IMF/EU bailout continuing and a massive budget adjustment inevitable, the discredited administration have clung to power in recent weeks even as its last claim to a mandate disappeared.
With only the support of Minister for Health Mary Harney to count on, the Fianna Fail/Green Party coalition has lost its working majority with only 80 TDs in the Dail, compared to 81 TDs now forming the opposition.
Sinn Fein’s Senator Pearse Doherty is the favourite to win the forthcoming Donegal South West by-election, a result that would further strengthen the Opposition. Three other by-elections are pending, all certain to be lost by the government. The High Court in Dublin has ruled that two of these should already have been held, a ruling that the government has so far ignored.
At a press conference this morning, Green Party leader John Gormley defended his party’s decision to stay in government with Fianna Fáil until after the Budget on December 7th, insisting it was in the national interest to ensure it was passed.
“We have always said that our involvement in government would only continue as long as it was for the benefit of the Irish people. Leaving the country without a government while these matters are unresolved would be very damaging and would breach our duty of care,” he said, adding that the Irish people need political stability over the coming months.
But Sinn Fein Dail leader Caoimhghin O Caolain accused the Greens of ‘cutting and running’ while denying the people an immediate general election.
“It is absolutely shameful that this party is denying the people an immediate general election and helping Fianna Fail to inflict further massive damage on the Irish economy and Irish society,” said Mr O Caolain.
“The Green Party has played a disgraceful role in one of the worst cabinets that has ever governed in any country.
“We now have the unprecedented situation where a coalition partner has announced it is to pull out of a Government while at the same time preparing to help frame and vote for its Budget.”
Maverick independent Jackie Healy-Rae today issued a statement saying he can “no longer honour his word” to the Fianna Fail and the time has come to “go to the people”.
The TD for Kerry South said recent events “have totally undermined whatever little bit of confidence” he had in the government.
He accused the Taoiseach Brian Cowen of telling “blatant lies” to the Irish people regarding the IMF and ECB. “His Cabinet Ministers, to a man, were singing from the same sheet,” he said.
He added it was “very unlikely” he would support the annual Budget next month but would have to wait to see what it contained. Along the proposals expected to be included are highly controversial cuts in social welfare and the minimum wage.
Tipperary North Independent TD Michael Lowry also withdrew his support from the Fianna Fail-led government. He said that while his vote was no longer guaranteed, he believed that the Budget had to be passed in the national interest.
But he said that Fine Gael and Labour should say whether they are going to cooperate with the Budget - and that if they are not, that a General Election should be called immediately.
Labour Party leader Eamon Gilmore called on Taoiseach Brian Cowen to dissolve the Dail and said the electorate should be able to vote in a new government as early as next month.
He said the Greens “had finally recognised the Government was past its sell-by date”.
“Fianna Fail has made a mess of the country; they have crippled the economy and and brought national morale to an unprecedented low,” said Mr Gilmore.
“After 13 years of bad government and weeks of lying to the Irish people, the unprecedented decision taken on Sunday effectively represents the handing over of the deeds of the country to the EU and the International Monetary Fund (IMF).
“It is essential that we have a new government elected as soon as possible.”
Fianna Fail backbenchers have also urged Cowen to go. “At this stage the country has lost faith in him, and I think it needs a new opportunity,” said Kildare TD Sean Power.