Taoiseach Brian Cowen has said he will seek to dissolve the Dáil next Tuesday and announce the date of the General Election.

Speaking on RTÉ Raidió na Gaeltachta's Adhmhaidin, Mr Cowen also said that he is to consult his family and advisors over the weekend regarding his future in politics.

Mr Cowen said he supports the call from new Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin that all party leaders should debate the issues.

There is an onus on all parties to put forward their plans for the country so the electorate can decide who best to lead them, he said.

Speaking this evening, Mr Cowen said the Dail would meet on Tuesday before it being dissolved later that day by the president.

He said Tuesday would provide an opportunity to set out some of the arguments that will feature in the election campaign.

It will be a chance to, he said, for retiring TDs to make a final speech.

Questioned on whether he will run again for the Dail, he said he would have to speak to his wife and family over the weekend before deciding.

Sinn Féin President Gerry Adams has welcomed Mr Cowen’s intention to seek the dissolution of the Dáil on Tuesday.

'I welcome this long overdue announcement from Brian Cowen,' Mr Adams said.

'The people will be glad to see the back of this totally discredited Government,' he added.

Finance Bill passes second stage in Seanad

Meanwhile, the Finance Bill has passed the first of a series of votes in the Seanad, by a result of 28-21.

It means the Finance Bill has passed the second stage of the legislative process and will continue to the remaining stages in the Seanad tomorrow.

Speaking during the debate, Green Party Senator Dan Boyle said the legislation was the 'biggest death wish' in Irish political history, and added that it was hardly an 'election Finance Bill'.

Senator Boyle also said the Greens should be credited with amendments that were brought forward dealing with changes to the Universal Social Charge and taxing bankers' bonuses.

Referring to the Independent TDs in the Dáil, he said others had claimed credit for the changes, but he said their input into them was 'nil'.

Independent Senator Shane Ross described the legislation as shameful and humiliating.

Earlier, Finance Minister Brian Lenihan said he finds it extraordinary that the Green Party 'couldn't find it in their hearts' to stay in Government for an extra week to allow time for tax changes to civil partnerships to be included in the Finance Bill.

Mr Lenihan, who was speaking in the Seanad, said he regrets the speed in which the Bill has progressed through the Houses, saying he would have preferred a two-week process as opposed to one.

Mr Lenihan also criticised the Labour Party for their stance on economic matters.

The Finance Minister said Labour had continually said they were opposed to the Government's economic adjustments, but have said they would not reverse the decisions if in office.

The minister said he was alluding to such comments made by Labour leader Eamon Gilmore on the Late Late Show.

Mr Lenihan labelled it as the 'Late Late Show doctrine'.

The Finance Bill passed all stages in the Dáil yesterday. The Government won the vote on the report and final stages by 81 votes to 76.

The Seanad will conclude its debate on the Bill tomorrow.

The parties have agreed that the Dáil can meet again tomorrow evening if flaws in the legislation are identified.

Gilmore urges Kenny to agree to three-way debate

Labour's Eamon Gilmore says he hopes Fine Gael leader Enda Kenny will agree to a three-way debate, adding that it was Labour who called for it in the first place a number of months ago.

Speaking in Cork, where he is on a day-long visit, he said he would participate in a five-way debate, but it would have to be followed by a three-way debate between the leaders of the parties offering to lead the country.

Meanwhile, speaking on RTÉ Radio, Mr Martin said he will participate in a five-way debate of party leaders during the election campaign, but re-iterated that the leaders of the three main parties should also debate the issues live.

The Fianna Fáil leader also challenged Mr Adams to a one-on-one debate.

Mr Martin said times had changed and the election had to be fought differently this time round.

He said he would not be running two Fianna Fáil candidates in a number of the larger constituencies.

TV3 said it has invited Mr Gilmore, Mr Kenny and Mr Martin to take part in a debate.

It said: 'Two of the candidates so far have shown a willingness to take part, and we will proceed with the debate.'

Fine Gael's Alan Shatter has claimed the public has no interest in the controversy surrounding the leaders' debates.

Mr Shatter said Fianna Fáil wants a 'phoney war' on the issue to distract attention from the fact that Mr Martin shares a responsibility for the state of the country.