Irish government expels lawmaker over budget vote

DUBLIN Thu Dec 13, 2012 11:11am EST

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DUBLIN (Reuters) - Ireland's coalition government expelled a senior Labour Party lawmaker on Thursday after he voted against social welfare cuts, part of an austerity budget unveiled last week.

The defection does not threaten the government's majority, but will put further pressure on the leadership of the centre-left Labour Party to resist cutbacks spearheaded by the centre-right Fine Gael party of Prime Minister Enda Kenny.

Bailed-out Ireland detailed its sixth raft of spending cuts and tax hikes in little over four years last week, and all measures are expected to pass as the government still controls 107 of seats in the 166-seat lower house.

Colm Keaveney, who is chairman of the Labour party and critic of party leader Eamon Gilmore, voted against the Social Welfare Bill, prompting his automatic expulsion from the parliamentary party reducing the government's majority.

He is the fifth Labour deputy to lose the whip in less than two years.

"While I support the government's fiscal strategy, I just find it very difficult to personally support the measures that attack vulnerable people in society," Keaveney told Newstalk radio

"I think the budget is a lost opportunity for this government to secure social cohesion."

The bill included a 20 percent cut in the respite grant given to carers to pay for alternative help while they take a holiday. Keaveney had been lobbying for a tax increase on high earners instead.

(Reporting by Conor Humphries; Editing by Alison Williams)

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