Belfast Telegraph

Cowen in call to pass Finance Bill

Taoiseach Brian Cowen has called for the Finance Bill to be passed despite the Green Party's withdrawal from Government.

Proposed legislation to introduce December's austerity budget was published on Friday and was expected to take weeks to go through the Dail legislature.

The opposition Labour Party said all stages should be complete by next Friday or it will table a motion of no confidence which the minority Fianna Fail Government is almost certain to lose.

Mr Cowen told RTE: "The important thing now is to have an orderly completion of the Finance Bill in the interests of the country and then obviously we move to a dissolution of the Dail and a general election."

He added: "Regarding the necessary passage of the Finance Bill and a realistic timeframe. Some of the timeframes that have been mentioned by the opposition have not been realistic. It's not possible to deal with it within a week."

His administration was urged by the Labour Party to set a date for the general election by the end of the week or Mr Cowen, who has stepped aside as Fianna Fail leader, will face a vote of no confidence in his Government and in himself.

A vote on the future of the administration was planned for Wednesday. It has been plunged into chaos since minor partners the Green Party said they were quitting the Coalition today after a week which saw several Fianna Fail ministers resign in opposition to Mr Cowen's leadership.

Mr Cowen has called a general election for March 11. The Taoiseach said he will reassign the departments of environment and communications to other ministers.

A Department of Finance spokesman said: "The Minister for Finance (Brian Lenihan) will invite representatives of the Green Party and the opposition to a meeting tomorrow to discuss the timetable for the passage of the Finance Bill."

Labour leader Eamon Gilmore said all stages of the Bill could be complete by Friday and said Fianna Fail was stalling for time to elect a new leader. He said: "The Finance Bill must be enacted this week, the Dail dissolved by the weekend and the election called for the earliest possible date. Only when that has been done can the process of national recovery begin."

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