A row over health cuts threatens to destabilise the Irish coalition government of Fine Gael and the Irish Labour Party in the run up to the 2013 austerity budget.
On Tuesday 4 September Fine Gael health minister James Reilly announced Œ130 million cuts targeting home-help services, personal assistants for the disabled and the availability of certain medical products.
The announcement was met by a furious public reaction. Opposition parties Fianna Fáil and Sinn Féin are planning votes of no confidence in Reilly when parliament returns later this month.
In a sign of growing grassroots anger at the coalition, the Labour Party chairperson Colm Keaveney, who was elected against the wishes of the leadership at the last conference, attacked the proposed cuts and criticised the minister for not communicating them to the Labour Party before announcing them.
Keaveney also prompted speculation about another general election as the coalition considers a further Œ3.5 billion of austerity measures next year.
A new left-wing pressure group inside the Irish Labour Party, the Campaign for Labour Policies, will be officially launched on 15 September. They have sent a letter to party members aiming to mobilise support for “an [government] alternative political programme” and for placing policy development back in the hands of the membership.
The IMF’s permanent representatives have been driven to seek assurances that there was no split between the coalition partners.
The right-wing Irish Independent warned that “the Budget is going to require far greater discipline” on the part of the respective party leaders.
With battles over public sector pay, social welfare cuts and income tax set to rage as parliamentary returns for a new term, the future of the government is by no means guaranteed.