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Europe

Irish government in crisis as Greens quit coalition

The Irish government has suffered a serious political setback with the resignation of the Greens as junior coalition partners. The move could expedite elections, which had already been brought forward to March.

The Irish flag

Elections now look likely to be brought forward from March

Ireland's junior coalition partners, the Greens, have announced they are pulling out of Prime Minister Brian Cowen's government in a move likely to bring about even earlier elections.

Greens leader John Gormley said his party had lost patience with their partners, Fianna Fail.

"For a very long time we in the Green party have stood back in the hope that Fianna Fail could resolve persistent doubts about their party leadership," Gormley told reporters after hours of talks with his party.

"A definitive resolution of this has not yet been possible and our patience has reached an end. Because of these continuing doubts, the lack of communication and the breakdown in trust, we have decided that we can no longer continue in government."

Gormley called for elections to take place as soon as possible, with polls already having been brought forward once, to March 11.

"We believe that this election is absolutely necessary. The Irish people have begun to lose confidence in politics and in the political process. They have watched aghast the conduct in Dail Eireann of political parties," Gormley said, referring to the Irish lower house. "The Irish people expect and deserve better."

Controversial aid

Irish Prime Minister Brian Cowen

Cowen has stayed on as prime minister

The Greens had been itching to end their partnership with Fianna Fail since late last year when the government was forced to apply for a bailout from the EU and the International Monetary Fund to save the country's banking sector from collapse.

Gormley said, however, the Greens would still support the legislation needed to drag Ireland out of the economic doldrums.

"We will remain true to our promise to support the finance bill from the opposition benches with the promised cooperation of the opposition parties," he said.

The Greens' six MPs, who held the balance of power in parliament, will immediately join the opposition ranks. The move leaves Cowen with just seven cabinet ministers - the constitutional minimum - to run 15 ministries.

The Greens' withdrawal from government follows Cowen's announcement on Saturday that he would step down as leader of Fianna Fail, but remain in his post as prime minister until elections could be held. That followed a vote of confidence in his leadership, which he won by an undisclosed margin.

Author: Darren Mara (AFP, Reuters)
Editor: Martin Kuebler

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