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The 30th Dáil is likely to be dissolved in the coming days, after the main parties struck a deal to pass the Finance Bill last night. Wikimedia Commons
Dying Dáil

Dáil prepares for final days before dissolution

The Dáil schedule is cleared to allow the Finance Bill to be sped through – and may be in on Saturday night to wrap up.

DÁIL ÉIREANN will begin what will almost certainly begin the final week of its current term today, as its entire weekly schedule is cleared to allow Fianna Fáil’s minority government to rush through its Finance Bill before calling an election.

Last night’s agreement between Brian Lenihan and the finance spokespersons of Fine Gael, Labour and the Greens means that the opposition – most notably Labour – will take their motions of no confidence in the government off the agenda, and allow Fianna Fáil to push through the final leg of its Budget legislation before calling time on the 30th Dáil.

The ordinary Dáil routine – which is governed by timetabled question-and-answer sessions to each minister, as well as the high-profile batches of oral questions to the Taoiseach – has been completely abandoned, with the Dáil expected to start the ‘second stage’, the main debate on the Bill, shortly after it reconvenes at 2:30pm.

That debate is expected to wrap up early tomorrow morning, giving the Dáil all day Wednesday and some time on Thursday morning to complete the ‘committee stage’ where amendments are tabled and discussed, and the final stages to be discussed that afternoon.

The Seanad will complete a similar procedure throughout Friday and Saturday, with the government intending its passage through the upper house by Saturday evening. TDs will remain present, however, in case Seanad amendments require the Dáil to reconvene and vote on them.

Brian Cowen may take the opportunity of a Saturday evening sitting to announce his plans for dissolving the Dáil, or he may alternatively wait until the Dáil would be next scheduled to meet, on Tuesday February 1, to tell the Dáil he was going to seek its dissolution.

That occasion would also be used to allow retiring TDs to make farewell speeches to the house, should they want to. If the opposition parties are not satisfied with the progress of the Bill by that date, they’ll then move their motions of no confidence during government time, triggering an election anyway.

Regardless of whether it is dissolved on Saturday night or at any time before the weekend after next, the election is almost certain to take place on February 25, assuming that Brian Cowen wants to hold polling on a Friday.

That is almost certain, given that Cowen’s earlier prospective date for the election (March 11) was also a Friday.