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Cowen’s Party Loses Irish Special Vote to Bank Bond Burner

Irish Prime Minister Brian Cowen
Irish Prime Minister Brian Cowen probably will still be able to pass the 2011 budget. Photographer: Aidan Crawley/Bloomberg

Irish Prime Minister Brian Cowen’s party lost a special election for a vacant parliamentary seat to a candidate who said he wants to “burn” holders of bank debt as the nation seeks an international bailout.

The candidate for Sinn Fein took 40 percent of first preferences to the ruling Fianna Fail party’s 21 percent, RTE, the national broadcaster, said. Fianna Fail conceded the vote.

“We need to burn the bondholders,” Pearse Doherty, the Sinn Fein candidate, said in interview with RTE today. “We can’t saddle debt around the necks of people who had no part to play in the mess this country is in.”

Cowen is racing to conclude talks with the European Union and the International Monetary Fund on an 85 billion-euro ($113 billion) aid package as his governing coalition prepares to hold a general election next year. While a loss for Cowen reduces his majority in parliament to two, the premier probably will still be able to pass the 2011 budget.

The two biggest opposition parties “both accept the need to get the current deficit down,” Alan Dukes, a former finance minister who led the opposition Fine Gael party from 1987 to 1990, said in an interview late yesterday. The parties have “no option” other than to allow the budget to pass, he said.

German Finance Minister Wolfgang Schaeuble said today he hopes that bailout talks will be concluded by early next week. EU and IMF officials are exploring if it’s possible for senior bank bondholders to share some of the cost of rescuing Ireland’s lenders, the Irish Times reported, without citing anyone.

‘Mortal Danger’

It would be “wrong” to speculate on senior bank bonds, Deputy Prime Minister Mary Coughlan said in an interview with RTE, as she conceded the election.

“We’ll be dusting ourselves down and getting ready for a general election,” she said. “Every seat is in mortal danger.”

Cowen’s junior partner in government, the Green Party, said Nov. 22 it is pulling out of the coalition, forcing a national election to be held early next year. Two independent lawmakers, on whom the government relies for support, said their backing for the budget isn’t guaranteed.

The most northerly county in Ireland, Donegal is adjacent to Northern Ireland and 140 miles from Dublin. Known as the “Forgotten County,” it accounts for less than 4 percent of Ireland’s population.

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