Seven Fianna Fail ministers only remain, the constitutional minimum for a legal government. Frantic efforts are now afoot to try to save the Finance Bill before an election. The Guardian website reports what is at stake.
This presents the opposition Fine Gael and Labour parties with a supreme test. Do they move their vote of confidence this week and precipitate an immediate general election rather than later, even if earlier than the March 11 date set by taoiseach Brian Cowen only on Friday? How would the Greens vote, having just quit the government? Cowen is surely right, when he says the Finance Bill could not pass by Friday, the likely day of Dail dissolution if the government were to fall this week.
Public shame and anger are reaching new heights, not only against the collapsing government (now standing at 8% approval rating in the polls) but against the burdensome terms of the EU-IMF bailout. In response, all parties – even Fianna Fail – are uttering vague noises of re-negotiation – after the budget. Saving the budget could mean electoral damage for Fine Gael and Labour. For once, they may face a tougher decision than the government rump.
Demands are mounting for wholesale constitutional and political reform to remove the scourges of clientelism and croneyism at the heart of Irish public life which account for the crisis plumbing such depths, according to the system’s legion of critics.