Ireland's Greens quit government

Junior partner in Ireland's coalition government quits, potentially sparking earlier elections.

    Party leader John Gormley announced the Greens were pulling out of Ireland's coalition government [AFP]

    Ireland's Green party has announced it plans to pull out of the country's coalition government, potentially sparking elections earlier than the expected March 2011 date.

    Speaking at a press conference on Sunday, John Gormley, leader of the Greens said the party's "patience has reached an end".

    It came after a week of political turmoil which resulted in Brian Cowen, the prime minister, quitting as leader of his ruling Fianna Fail party on Saturday.

    Gormley said his smaller party, critical for the survival of Cowen's coalition government, will join the opposition side of the parliament immediately.

    Niamh Lyons, the Irish Daily Mail political correspondent, told Al Jazeera that the Greens had grown impatient with the leadership challenges within the Fianna Fail Party.

    On Saturday, Cowen stepped down as leader of his party but said he will remain Ireland's premier until elections.

    The Greens are the smaller coalition member, Lyons said, and "in order to have any chance in gaining back a seat or two in the forthcoming general election, they believe they have to nail their colours to the mast on this one, and have simply decided that it was time to pull the plug".

    Total distraction

    "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.

    He said the ongoing leadership saga within Fianna Fail was a total distraction from government.

    "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 said.

    However, he stressed that his lawmakers would support the last essential deficit-fighting measure facing a parliamentary vote, the 2011 Finance Bill, hoping to push the legislation through in the next five days.

    The bill will bring into effect measures from the government's unpopular austerity budget that will see tax hikes and spending cuts in the wake of the country's economic crisis.

    Lyons commented on the "unprecedented move" by the Green party, which has decided to join forces with the opposition, to allow the budget to be pushed through in the next five days.

    "The main government partners [Fianna Fail] will not have the support to do anything other than allow that financial bill to go through," Lyons said.

    Finance bill 'vital'

    "It's important that we get the finance bill through, and we need a government to do that,'' Prime Minister Cowen said on Sunday, adding that the Greens' withdrawal made it essential for all parties to reach an agreement within the next few days on speedy passage of the Bill.

    However, "it's not possible to deal with it in a week,'' Cowen said.

    The finance bill is considered vital to securing a $90bn international bailout agreed with the European Union and International Monetary Fund in November.

    Sunday's withdrawal means Cowen has already lost two more cabinet ministers: environment minister Gormley and communications minister Eamon Ryan.

    Cowen has only seven of 15 cabinet ministers remaining, following an attempted cabinet reshuffle last week.

    The two major opposition parties, Fine Gael and Labour, are threatening to force a no-confidence vote in parliament this week against Cowen unless he promises to get the finance bill passed by Friday.

    SOURCE: Al Jazeera and agencies


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