Ireland’s deputy Prime Minister Frances Fitzgerald has resigned, preventing a snap election.
A no-confidence motion in Mrs Fitzgerald, Ireland’s Tanaiste, was scheduled for Tuesday evening in the Irish Parliament over Fitzgerald’s knowledge of a whistleblower controversy against a respected Garda sergeant.
If the government had lost the vote of confidence, the Irish government could have been bought down, leaving Leo Varadkar, the Taoiseach, to seek an early general election.
Instead, Taoiseach (Irish prime minister) Leo Varadkar has accepted her resignation as she quit hours before a motion of no confidence was to be proposed by Fianna Fáil of the main opposition party.
The controversy in question comes from Garda Sergeant Maurice McCabe, who claims he was the focus of a deliberate smear campaign when he raised concerns about police corruption.
A series of emails dating back to 2015 show that Fitzgerald was aware of a strategy to target McCabe at a private judge-led inquiry.
Fitzgerald was the justice secretary at the time, and said she had forgotten the email and was precluded from acting on legal advice.
In a statement, Mrs Fitzgerald said: “I believe it is necessary to take this decision to avoid an unwelcome and potentially destabilising general election at this historically critical time.
“I would like to thank the Taoiseach. I will always be grateful… for (him) giving me the opportunity to serve in a Government that is making a real difference in people’s lives at a critical time in our history.
“I decided that my continuation in office risks destabilising that good work, and so I have decided to step-down so that this work may continue and the country can be spared an unnecessary election.
“It will also allow me to vindicate my good name… without causing any further distraction to the work of the Government.”
Speaking in the Dáil (Irish Parliament) on Tuesday, Varadkar said he had advised the President to accept her resignation.
He said he had accepted Ms Fitzgerald’s resignation with deep regret and told the Dáil that a good woman was leaving office without getting a fair hearing.