This article titled “Ireland could face snap election over future of deputy PM” was written by Henry McDonald Ireland correspondent, for theguardian.com on Friday 24th November 2017 06.41 Asia/Kolkata
Ireland is in danger of a snap election over the future of its deputy prime minister, who faces a vote of no confidence in the country’s parliament next week.
Frances Fitzgerald, the tánaiste, faces calls from the opposition to resign as the second most powerful politician in the Irish cabinet over her handling of a police whistleblower scandal that has come back to haunt the government in Dublin.
The controversy focuses on an email from May 2015 which outlined how legal teams for Nóirín O’Sullivan, then the commissioner of the Garda Síochána, and Maurice McCabe, a garda officer and whistleblower, clashed at an inquiry into the latter’s allegations of police malpractice.
The email related to a strategy drawn up by the high command of Ireland’s police service against Sgt McCabe.
Fitzgerald has claimed that she doesn’t remember the email and that, in any event, she could not have legally intervened over it.
Her Fine Gael party – including the Irish taoiseach, Leo Varadkar – are thought to have have rallied around Fitzgerald on Thursday night.
Varadkar told an emergency meeting of his Daíl deputies and senators in Dublin that he will not allow Fitzgerald to be “thrown under the bus”.
Fine Gael, the largest party in the minority coalition, then voted for a motion in support of Fitzgerald keeping her job.
Eoghan Murphy, Fine Gael’s housing minister, insisted Fitzgerald had “acted appropriately” in relation to the inquiry into McCabe’s claims about Garda corruption and malpractice.
Fitzgerald has denied she was party to any strategy to undermine McCabe’s credibility.
But the main opposition party, Fianna Fáil, confirmed on Thursday night that it was preparing for a vote of no confidence in Fitzgerald.
Fine Gael relies on a “confidence and supply” arrangement with Fianna Fáil to keep it in power. Following an indecisive general election in 2016, Fianna Fáil in effect declared a temporary political ceasefire to allow a government to function as Ireland worked its way towards economic recovery.
It means that while Fianna Fáil does not back all legislation the Fine Gael/Independent coalition introduces, it has not so far supported any no-confidence motions in the government from rival opposition parties, such as Sinn Féin.
But one Fianna Fáil source told the Guardian on Thursday night that the “confidence and supply” arrangement may be coming to an end.
Thesource said the chances of a general election, possibly in early 2018, was “50-50” at present.
They added that Fitzgerald should be persuaded to resign shortly, otherwise there would be an election at Christmas or in early 2018.
Earlier on Thursday night, Fianna Fáil’s justice spokesman, Jim O’Callaghan, said Fitzgerald should go.
Sinn Féin’s deputy leader, Mary Lou McDonald, who is tipped to become the party’s next president, accused the tánaiste of having “clearly failed in her duties” when she learned the Garda strategy “was so utterly malicious and designed to … ruin Sgt McCabe’s life”.
Sinn Fein and Fianna Fáil claim that the tánaiste should have acted when the email was initially sent to her in May 2015.
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