Belfast Telegraph

Government over first Budget hurdle

The minority Government has narrowly survived a make-or-break vote to get Budget 2011 into law after striking a last minute deal with two Independents.

After securing revisions to the Finance Bill, TDs Michael Lowry and Jackie Healy-Rae denied holding the country to ransom to get sweeteners for their rural constituencies.

The harsh budget will now include a complex super tax on bankers' bonuses, tax relief for some parents paying student fees and no change on the September 30 deadline to file tax returns.

The first stage passed successfully and the bill should go through all stages, Dail, Committee and Seanad, by Saturday evening before Taoiseach Brian Cowen dissolves the Dail some time before Tuesday afternoon.

A general election is due within four weeks, with February 25 looking the most likely date.

The two TDs, representing Tipperary North and Kerry South, held the balance of power and without their support the country would have been thrown into an immediate election.

Mr Lowry and Mr Healy-Rae, who were accused of "parish pump politics", turned their anger on the Opposition and accused Fine Gael and Labour of hypocrisy.

The two TDs have previously secured private deals for their constituencies with two governments, in return for their support.

"All of the measures that I have dealt with here are national issues. I didn't deal with any constituency issues," Mr Lowry said.

"I have thought long and hard but I can see no alternative - the whole world is watching to see if we can stabilise our financial situation," Mr Healy-Rae said.

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