Taoiseach Brian Cowen has said he will finally dissolve the Dublin parliament next Tuesday.
Speaking to Radio na Gaeltachta, Mr Cowen said he would tell the Dail of his intention at 2.30pm on Tuesday. February 25th remains the most likely date for the election, which must be held within 30 days of the dissolution.
Sinn Fein President Gerry Adams welcomed the announcement, which he said was “long overdue”.
“The people will be glad to see the back of this totally discredited Government,” he said.
“Sinn Fein looks forward to the election and would call on all citizens to make a stand for a better Ireland and against the cosy consensus for cuts.
“There is a better way. It is based on equality. That is what Sinn Fein stands for.”
The announcement followed pressure from the main Opposition parties for Cowen’s crippled, minority government to name an election date following the rushed passage of the Finance Bill, which it set to be passed by the Seanad this weekend.
The election of Cowen’s former Minister of Foreign Affairs, Micheal Martin, to the position of leader of Fianna Fail on Wednesday added to a general sense of unreality in the parliament this week.
With a deal agreed by the establishment parties for the Dail to focus exclusively on the passage of the Finance Bill, all sides engaged in only a token debate.
Independent candidates Jackie Healy-Rae, Michael Lowry and Mattie McGrath took credit for last-minute changes to the Bill and voted ‘Yes’, allowing Fine Gael and Labour to pass through the ‘No’ lobby in the Dail divisions.
Sinn Fein’s Finance Spokesperson Pearse Doherty described the events as a “pantomime” and a “charade”.
“Fine Gael and Labour side-stepped and double talked and confused even themselves - trying to pass off their support for the Finance Bill as a protest vote,” he said.
“Then the Independents joined the fray - shadow boxing with tough talk and veiled threats - and getting the high media coverage they craved.
“The passing of the Finance Bill is not in the national interest - the bill is in the interest of the IMF and EU who have come to Ireland and are dictating our sovereign fiscal matters.
“The loan which the bill is tied to is not to pay public servants’ wages as the Labour party falsely claims - it is to pay out to international bank bondholders, bondholders who took a risk in our risky banks and now, to the incredulity of the whole world, are receiving a full bail out with the aid of the EU/IMF, the Irish taxpayers, FF, FG, the Greens and the Labour party, rather than taking their market losses.”
Mr Doherty said Eamonn Gilmore, in facilitating the passage of the Finance Bill, was “guilty of the very thing he accuses the Taoiseach of - economic treason.”
MARCHING FOR CHANGE
Meanwhile, a nine-day protest march by eight men from the southeast ended on Thursday when they finally reached the Dublin parliament.
The men - who had set out from Kilmacow in south Kilkenny - were met at their destination by Sinn Fein’s Dail leader Caoimhghin O Caolain.
Mr O Caolain congratulated them on completing their protest and said they had helped to inspire the people of Ireland.
While each of the eight men had their own specific reasons for marching, they said that they were collectively united in anger over the lack of job prospects for young people in Ireland.
On their march the men carried signs saying “our children are not for export” and “stop the talking and start the walking”.
They presented Mr O Caolain with “the eight demands by the eight walkers” and asked him to take up their grievances. They also expressed disappointment that no Fianna Fail Minister had come out to meet them.
Their demands included halving the number of TDs, the abolition of the Seanad, social welfare for the self-employed and the right to vote for Irish emigrants.