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Irish Deputy PM Frances Fitzgerald Under Pressure to Quit and Avoid Election

The opposition party propping up the minority government said the deputy prime minister's refusal to quit would force the country to the polls in December, a position that hardened on Monday.

Reuters

Updated:November 28, 2017, 3:28 PM IST
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Irish Deputy PM Frances Fitzgerald Under Pressure to Quit and Avoid Election
File photo of Deputy Prime Minister of Ireland (Tanaiste) Frances Fitzgerald (Reuters)
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Dublin: Irish Deputy Prime Minister Frances Fitzgerald was under intense pressure from her own party to resign on Tuesday to avoid a snap election that is hours away from being called, a crisis that is casting a shadow over next month's Brexit summit.

The opposition party propping up the minority government said the deputy prime minister's refusal to quit would force the country to the polls in December, a position that hardened on Monday.

Ireland will play a major role in the Brexit summit next month, telling EU leaders whether it believes sufficient progress has been made on the future of the border between EU-member Ireland and the British province of Northern Ireland.

In public, Fitzgerald's Fine Gael ministerial colleagues continued to back her.

"There is certainly not a need for her to resign, the position of Fine Gael remains the same and the position of the Taoiseach (prime minister) remains the same," Simon Harris told reporters.

A spokesman for Prime Minister Leo Varadkar, whom analysts say risks being badly damaged by the affair, said late on Monday the government stood behind her.

However the front pages of the Irish Times, Irish Examiner and Irish Independent newspapers quoted unnamed Fine Gael lawmakers as saying Fitzgerald had to resign.

One minister, who spoke to Reuters on condition of anonymity as senior ministers were due to meet on Tuesday, said Fitzgerald was coming under serious pressure from within the party to resign and would have to go. Another lawmaker agreed.

National broadcaster RTE quoted Fine Gael backbencher Hildegarde Naughton as saying "it will be difficult" for Fitzgerald to stay in office, the first public call from within the party for her to step down.

Fitzgerald resisted calls to go on Monday from the majority of opposition parties after pressure mounted following the release of fresh documents about her disputed handling of a police whistleblower who alleged corruption in the force.

Fianna Fail, whose backing Varadkar requires from the opposition benches to keep his government functioning, has said it will move a motion of no confidence in Fitzgerald at 2000 GMT on Tuesday unless she quits.

A senior Fianna Fail lawmaker said he was hopeful Fitzgerald would resign or that Varadkar would "address the matter" before the confidence motion is tabled.

"It's very clear from media reports and from talking to Fine Gael people behind the scenes that they are very much disturbed by this situation," Fianna Fail's Timmy Dooley told RTE.

"I think what we need now is the wise heads in Fine Gael to get together, assess the situation and avoid an election."

The border is one of three issues Brussels wants broadly resolved before it decides whether to move talks on Britain's divorce from the EU onto a second phase about trade, as Britain wants.

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| Edited by: Ananya Chakraborty
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