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Finance Bill may fall after Lowry refuses to support

Michael Lowry says he can’t back the Finance Bill “in its current format” – meaning the Bill could fall tomorrow.

Image: Julien Behal/PA Wire

THE FINANCE BILL could yet fail to make it through the Dáil, despite last night’s agreement between the main political parties – after independent TD Michael Lowry said he could “not support the Bill in its current format”.

In a statement released this afternoon, Tipperary North TD Lowry said he had informed the Taoiseach that he would not be supporting the Bill unless he received a number of assurances about its provisions.

As yet, he explained, he had yet to receive those assurances – and as a result, he would not be in a position to vote in its favour.

The government, Lowry said in his statement, had been left “with a critical lack of authority” – so much so that it was not in a position “to put any legislation before the Oireachtas.”

Lowry said he had held a meeting with Brian Cowen and Brian Lenihan this morning, where he had told them he would find it “almost impossible, even in the national interest, to support a crippled government”.

He had asked the government to amend the legislation so that medical card holders and retired civil servants would not be liable for the universal social charge, and to allow student fees to be offset against a person’s tax bill.

The government has subsequently offered to create a loophole for medical card holders, with the funding shortfall to be made up elsewhere.

It was also “impossible to justify”, Lowry added, the Bill’s omission of the proposed 90% tax on banking bonuses.

Though Lowry’s statement leaves the door open for the government to win his support by proposing the amendments he wants, Fianna Fáil faces a race against time to persuade him to back it.

The Dáil is set to vote on the second stage of the Bill at noon tomorrow – and Lowry will need his assurances about the government’s intended amendments by then, or else he seems set to vote against it at that point.

Lowry’s vote will likely be echoed by Kerry South independent Jackie Healy-Rae, who has always voted alongside Lowry in the current Dáil – and if both oppose it, the government will be unable to muster the majority required to ensure its passage through second stage.

Now-independent TD for Tipperary South, Mattie McGrath, earlier said he was undecided on whether to vote in favour of the Bill.

Voting chart

If Lowry and Healy-Rae vote against the Bill at second stage tomorrow at noon, the Finance Bill will be defeated by 81 votes to 80.

In favour (80): All Fianna Fáil TDs (72), all Green Party TDs (6), Mary Harney, Joe Behan

Opposed (81) : All Fine Gael TDs (51), all Labour Party TDs (20), all Sinn Féin TDs (5), Noel Grealish, Maureen O’Sullivan, Finian McGrath, Michael Lowry, Jackie Healy-Rae

Undecided: Mattie McGrath

Total: 162

The Ceann Comhairle only votes in a tie, in which case he conventionally supports the government; there are three seats vacant in the 166-strong Dáíl.

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About the author:

Gavan Reilly

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