Irish Green Party pulls out of government coalition – elections could be even earlier than March 11

Ireland’s Fianna Fáil-Green coalition was already unravelling before our very eyes. The recession was the first step, followed by an embarrassing admittal that the country would need the IMF’s help in avoiding bankruptcy. Then, the junior partners of the coalition, the Green Party, called for early elections. This past week, Taoiseach (Prime Minister) Brian Cowen resigned from the Fianna Fáil leadership just four days after winning a confidence vote within his own party – following the resignations of several government ministers. An election was called for March 11. And now the Greens have officially pulled out of the coalition, meaning that elections are now imminent:

The Green Party has decided to withdraw from the Government after “losing patience” with the lack of resolution to the ongoing saga of Fianna Fáil’s leadership. As a result, the date of the election is likely to be brought forward from March 11th.

It announced the decision in at a press conference in Dublin this afternoon in the same hotel where Brian Cowen stood down as leader of Fianna Fáil yesterday but opted to remain as Taoiseach.

Mr Gormley said Fianna Fáil’s leadership issue was too much of a distraction for the Government and meant an immediate election was necessary.

The two Green ministers – [Green Party leader John] Gormley, who held the environment portfolio, and Eamon Ryan, who had the communications, energy and natural resources brief – have tendered their resignations, meaning there are now just seven ministers remaining in the Cabinet, the Constitutional minimum.

This really is the end. And the shenanigans and chaos of the past week mean that any remaining good will towards Fianna Fáil from the few die-hard supporters of the party must now have dissipated. Today’s Independent/Quantum Research poll puts FF at an astonishingly low 8%. That’s a political earthquake in a country where the Soldiers of Destiny (as Fianna Fáil is also known) have never scored under 26% in a general election since their first electoral outing in 1927 – and have come first in every single national legislative election since 1932. And, as I stated in a previous post, such a drubbing will be well-deserved.

One note on the Greens: they knew what they were getting themselves into. FF is a toxic coalition partner, with a decades-old whiff of corruption about the party, and every single political grouping to go into government has suffered at the ballot box. And to pull out of the coalition now will do them no good: they’ve been in government with Ahern and Cowen for four years, and voters won’t easily forget it. Their political fate is sealed for years to come. It’s a shame, because I used to quite like them.

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