Speaking the Nations Mind

Ireland’s Deputy PM Resigns


Ireland’s deputy prime minister Frances Fitzgerald has said she is resigning for the sake of the country, averting a snap general election.

Taoiseach (Irish prime minister) Leo Varadkar has accepted her resignation.

Ms Fitzgerald had been at the centre of a Garda (Irish police) whistleblower controversy which could have resulted in bringing down the government.

She quit hours before a motion of no confidence in her was to be proposed by the main opposition party, Fianna Fáil.

There were fears that an Irish election could have complicated next month’s EU meeting, at which the Republic of Ireland’s position will influence the assessment of the UK’s progress in Brexit talks.

According to Irish broadcaster, RTÉ, Ms Fitzgerald told a Cabinet meeting on Tuesday that she was not asked or forced to resign, but took the decision herself.

Ms Fitzgerald held the dual roles of tánaiste (Irish deputy prime minister) and minister for business, enterprise and innovation.

She had been under pressure to resign because of her inaction in supporting a Garda whistleblower, whom she had publicly defended in her former role as Irish justice minister.

Last week, it was revealed that she had been told of an attempt to discredit Sgt Maurice McCabe by lawyers for the garda commissioner at a commission of enquiry a year earlier than she had previously admitted.

She said she had forgotten the email and was precluded from acting on legal advice.

The publication of further emails on Monday showed she had been aware of the attempt to discredit the whistleblower on one other occasion and was seen by many in her Fine Gael party as undermining her position.

The Irish government is currently led by Mr Varadkar’s Fine Gael party, but his cabinet includes a number of independent ministers and the coalition also depends on the support of the main opposition party, Fianna Fáil.

The coalition came to power in 2016, after a bruising general election in which no single party won enough seats to govern alone.

Fianna Fáil agreed to support the minority government for three budgets and in confidence motions, but the whistleblower controversy has tested that agreement.

If Fianna Fáil’s proposed vote of no confidence in Ms Fitzgerald had passed, another election may have been unavoidable.