DUBLIN – The prospect of a snap general election in the Republic of Ireland edged closer to reality on Friday after the party that props up the minority government said it was entertaining the idea of a motion of no confidence against the country’s deputy prime minister over her alleged involvement in a police corruption scandal.
The minority Fine Gael government leader Leo Varadkar, whose title as prime minister in Ireland is referred to as Taoiseach, relies on the goodwill of the centrist Fianna Fail party in a confidence and supply agreement that was initially struck on the understanding that the latter would refrain from presenting no-confidence motions in the national interest.
But a crescendo of calls for Varadkar’s deputy, Frances Fitzgerald, to resign over her alleged involvement in a police whistle-blowing scandal during her time as interior and justice minister between 2014-16 has put Fine Gael on the defensive, prompting Foreign Minister Simon Coveney to brand Fianna Fail’s behavior as “reckless.”
“Ireland does not need an election right now, there are no reasons that the Tánaiste should be forced to resign,” he told press at a European Union summit in Brussels, referring to Fitzgerald’s official job title in Irish.
Fine Gael has so far defended Fitzgerald’s position in government, insisting that the allegations against her were being investigated by a court and dismissing Fianna Fail’s actions as opportunistic and purely political.
Coveney added that the threat of a no-confidence motion breached the agreed terms of the confidence and supply coalition agreement and could weaken Ireland’s position at a time when it faces challenges such as Brexit.
Adding to the chorus in the parliament, or Oireachtas, was Sinn Féin, a center-left pro-Irish unity party, which announced its own move against Fitzgerald.
Should the revolt force a collapse of the government, snap elections could be held as early as December.
Fine Gael said the issue has stemmed from a rivalry between Fianna Fail and Sinn Féin, who are jostling for more power in the Oireachtas.
The Republic of Ireland is an EU member state whose northern border backs onto the United Kingdom territory of Northern Ireland.
Maintaining a soft border in the interest of trade and to preserve a peace deal stuck between warring factions in Northern Ireland was a priority for Dublin as the UK withdraws from the EU.