20/01/2011

Dáil Election Set Amid Resignations Chaos

Ireland's Prime Minister Brian Cowen has announced that he intends to dissolve parliament and call a general election on 11 March.

Mr Cowen was addressing parliament after five ministers resigned from the cabinet, prompting uproar in the Dail.

He said that existing ministers would take on the work of those who had quit.

Earlier, the Dáil chamber was suspended twice this morning as an incensed Opposition calls for the absent Taoiseach to explain last night's multiple cabinet resignations.

Mr Cowen was absent from the Dáil this morning despite his cabinet incurring a total of five vacancies in the past two days.

Four Minister's, Mary Harney, Dermot Ahern, Noel Dempsey and Tony Killeen gave their letters of resignation to the Taoiseach late last night in effort to curb attempts by the Green Party to block an expected reshuffle.

The resignations followed that of the Foreign Minister Michael Martin on Tuesday, who left the Cabinet after losing a challenge to Brian Cowen's leadership.

A sixth minister, Batt O'Keeffe, Minster for Enterprise, Trade and Innovation, is understood to have tendered his resignation this morning.

Defending the Taoiseach's absence under a salvo of Opposition heckling this morning, Tánaiste Mary Coughlan said that under the Constitution, Ministers who resigned from Cabinet were not deemed to have done so until the President accepted their resignations.

However, in response, Labour Leader Eamon Glmore said: "We have a flu epidemic we have people lying on hospitals in trolleys and the Minister for Health has taken to the hills, we have flights being cancelled in Aer Lingus and the Minister for Transport has resigned, we have problems for crime in many parts of the country and the two Ministers responsible for Justice and Defence are gone," before adding "we have had quite serious commentary on this country by both President Sarkozy of France and by the President of the European Commission and the Minister for Foreign Affairs has gone".

Opposition leaders then forced the suspension of the Dáil until the Taoiseach was present, with Fine Gael leader Enda Kenny demanding that proceedings be discontinued until the Taoiseach explains what is happening in Government.

"This is the worst government in history," Mr Kenny said.

(DW)

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