Northern Ireland

Irish finance bill passes final hurdle

Brian Cowen
Image caption Brian Cowen is expected to dissolve parliament on Tuesday

A crucial finance bill has been passed by the Republic of Ireland's upper house, the senate.

The finance bill is a condition of Ireland's 85bn euro (£72bn) bailout package.

The approval leaves the way clear for a general election to be called.

Irish Prime Minister Brian Cowen had earlier said he would move to dissolve parliament on Tuesday and announce the date of a general election once the senate had passed the bill.

It cleared the lower house, the Dail, on Thursday.

The bill will now go to the Irish president to be signed into law.

Last weekend, Mr Cowen stepped down as Fianna Fail leader, but said he would continue running the government.

On Wednesday, former foreign minister Micheal Martin was elected as the new leader of the party.

Fianna Fail has has slumped massively in the polls amid Ireland's financial crisis.

The finance bill is Ireland's final legislative commitment under the 85bn euro EU/IMF rescue.

Earlier this month Mr Cowen announced an election date of 11 March, however, it is now likely to take place in February.

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