Belfast Telegraph

Grealish withdraws Cowen support

Taoiseach Brian Cowen has been dealt a further blow after Independent TD Noel Grealish withdrew his support for the Government.

The former Progressive Democrat and coalition Government member said he has written to the Taoiseach and his ex-party colleague Health Minister Mary Harney.

The Galway representative initially turned the heat up on Mr Cowen on Thursday by calling for a general election and criticising the bank bail-outs. He followed that with warnings that 24 million euro health cuts in the west will lead to serious consequences for patient care.

"I'm making it quite clear. I'm withdrawing my support for this Government and I want all these issues resolved," he said.

Mr Grealish has backed the Fianna Fail-Green Party coalition since 2007.

The further pressure follows Mr Cowen's heavily-criticised performance on a morning radio interview and damning opinion poll figures that put his party in third place.

Mr Grealish told Galway Bay FM that he was willing to meet the Taoiseach to discuss his position.

The move to distance himself from the coalition shows further cracks in the Government's complex and shaky majority, with three Dail seats lying empty and by-elections not planned.

Two other Independents, Michael Lowry from Tipperary and Jackie Healy Rae in Kerry South, are expected to hold firm if the coalition remains as it is. Both Mr Lowry and Mr Healy Rae have said they will not vote for a new Taoiseach without a general election.

However, there are four Fianna Fail TDs who do not come under the party whip system but consistently backed Government policy in the last Dail term.

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