McDaid resignation fuels poll calls
The clamour for a general election has intensified after renegade TD Jim McDaid quit politics, accusing the Government of failing to take tough decisions.
The former minister told Taoiseach Brian Cowen that voters should have their say before he attempts to enforce the most devastating Budget cuts in the history of the state.
Despite Dr McDaid's resignation, leaving four Dail seats empty, the Government insisted it had not been relying on his support for a shaky majority just one above the now-crucial 81 seats.
In a letter to the Taoiseach last week, Mr McDaid said the country was facing uncertainty in the spring unless a new government was voted in.
"At this point I believe that it is in the best interests of the people of Ireland that the Government of Ireland has a working majority in the Dail of at least 20 seats, even if that Government is comprised of parties who have traditionally stood in opposition to Fianna Fail," Mr McDaid said. "And I hope that Government will have the strength to take on their obvious responsibilities, free from the shackles of social partnership and political Dutch auctions."
The High Court is due to rule on whether the Government should be forced to set a date for at least one by-election, Donegal South-West. Three others are now pending - Waterford, Dublin South and Dr McDaid's Donegal North-East.
Fine Gael leader Enda Kenny backed the GP's general election challenge, accusing the Government of cowardice. "The fact is Taoiseach you continue to brazen it out as head of Government, a position where you should realise you no longer have a valid authority to govern," Mr Kenny said.
He said nobody believed the Government any more, claiming it was bizarre that the number of vacant seats exceeded the Government's working majority.
Government Chief Whip John Curran insisted the coalition was stable going into one of its toughest months in office as it prepares a four-year savings plan and 15 billion euro cuts. He said: "Although the Government has not being relying on Jim's vote in the Dail for a period, I have always maintained a strong working relationship with him."
He revealed the writ for three by-elections - Waterford, Donegal South West and Dublin South - would be moved in the Spring.