Greens demand election in March
Ireland's junior coalition partner has thrown down the gauntlet to Taoiseach Brian Cowen demanding a general election by the end of March.
Green Party leader John Gormley told Mr Cowen the public wanted to go to the polls as soon as possible, claiming the party would not tolerate the Government hanging on until late spring or early summer.
"We do need an election in March. It's absolutely imperative, and as far as we are concerned to let it drift beyond into April would be unacceptable," Mr Gormley said.
But despite the two men meeting for almost an hour and a half to discuss the Finance Bill and the timing of the looming poll, there was still no firm indication of a date.
It has been suggested March 24 or 25 could be the preferred options.
Focus now shifts to the Finance Bill, giving affect to Budget measures, due to go before the Dail next week.
Mr Gormley said it could be passed by the end of February, clearing the way for an election.
Green Senator Dan Boyle said the Taoiseach was keeping his options open about naming a date at the end of March or the beginning of April, which he said was out of the question.
His party has been pushing for other legislation to be passed before the Dail is dissolved, including the Climate Change Bill and new laws banning corporate donations.
But Senator Boyle suggested the Greens might let them slide. "Our hope and our expectation is other legislation can be passed in the meantime, and we are still very hopeful that the legislation on corporate donations and climate change can and will be passed," he said.