Political parties in Ireland will hold crisis talks following the abrupt departure of the Green Party from the coalition led by Prime Minister Brian Cowen.
Without the Greens’ support, Cowen loses his slim two-seat majority in Parliament and raises doubts about the passage of a crucial finance bill which is a key part of the country’s international bailout plan.
The brawling parties will seek to compromise on a new timetable for voting on the bill as well as an agreed-upon new date for general elections (Cowen earlier called for a March 11 election. but pressure is rising to speed up that date).
Finance Minister Brian Lenihan told Irish media we do need a tight timetable - I will look constructively at any amendments and as short as possible a timetable as can be devised.
Cowen’s problems have been accelerating ever since Ireland agreed to a massive bailout program from the European Union/International Monetary Fund which required that the government impose severe spending cuts on an increasingly unhappy public.
Cowen resigned as head of the ruling Fianna Fail party over the weekend, but remained as Prime Minister.
Political opponents are outraged by his decision to maintain his office called it “farcical.” The Labour Party, among others, have threatened to remove Cowen from power through no-confidence votes, which might force a general election in February, rather than March.
I think the first thing Brian Lenihan has to realize is that Fianna Fail is now a minority government and it does not command sufficient support in the Dail to dictate the order of business, said Labour finance spokeswoman Joan Burton, who has called for an election in late February.