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'No confidence' vote could bring down Irish govt

Ireland has been gripped by political turmoil with the country’s deputy prime minister facing a no confidence vote, which could bring down the entire government.

Fianna Fail, which is in a supply and confidence agreement with the Fine Gael-led Irish government, has proposed a confidence motion to be debated next Tuesday.

If the government loses that vote, as expected, an election would be called, which could be held possibly before Christmas.

The motion of confidence is based on concerns over the Tanaiste Frances Fitzgerald’s handling of a whistleblower controversy involving a police officer, from when she was justice minister.

But, on Thursday night, Fine Gael passed a motion in support of Ms Fitzgerald, with the Irish Prime Minister Leo Varadkar saying he would not sacrifice his deputy on what he branded a trumped-up charge.

Irish police whistleblower Maurice McCabe
The controversy involves police whistleblower Maurice McCabe

On Friday, government ministers have rallied behind the deputy PM but her resignation would likely prevent what many view as an unwanted election with unpredictable results.

The controversy involving police whistleblower Sergeant Maurice McCabe stretches back more than a decade and has dogged the government for years.

The Garda officer was the alleged victim of a smear campaign by senior officers after he spoke out about corruption within the national police force.

An email correspondence was sent to the-then justice minister Ms Fitzgerald in 2015, setting out the legal strategy that was initially about to be pursued against Sergeant McCabe.

The opposition say Ms Fitzgerald should have acted on the email.

She claims she did not remember reading it and said it made clear she could not legally intervene.


A way to solve the Irish border question?

The possible collapse of the Irish government comes at a crucial moment in the Brexit negotiations.

Mr Varadkar has said Ireland is willing to use its veto to stop talks moving to the second phase at a crunch EU summit next month, unless substantial progress and commitments are made on the Irish border.

While a change in government is not likely to change the substance of Ireland’s position on Brexit, it could alter its negotiating tactics.

In the Irish Parliament on Wednesday, the main alternative to Mr Varadkar, Fianna Fail’s Micheal Martin, accused the prime minister of “megaphone diplomacy” in his dealings with London.

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