The Irish government was plunged into fresh chaos today as the junior coalition Green Party pulled out following the resignation of Taoiseach Brian Cowen as leader of the ruling Fianna Fail party.
John Gormley, leader and Environment Minister, said his party had lost patience with Fianna Fail and could no longer continue in government.
Mr Cowen yesterday bowed to pressure to quit as party leader after an epic week of political chaos, but the Taoiseach vowed to stay on as head of the coalition government until the March 11 general election.
Flanked by TDs and senators after crisis talks in Dublin, Mr Gormley said he believed an election was absolutely necessary.
“The Irish people have begun to lose confidence in politics and in the political process,” he said.
Brian Cowen passes leadership to a willing recipient
Irish Prime Minister Brian Cowen has passed the poisoned chalice of Fianna Fail's leadership to a willing recipient, writes Ireland expert Dr Peter Stafford.
Mr Cowen enterered the Irish history books yesterday - as the shortest serving leader of Fianna Fail in its long and impressive history. He hands over the post without making it past the two-year mark.
Thanks to a quirk of the Irish constitution we will have to wait until the 11th March to assess how Mr Cowen ranks in length of tenure as Taoiseach. He has resigned as leader of his party, but not as leader of the country.
Read more: Brian Cowen passes leadership to a willing recipient
“They have watched aghast the conduct in Dail Eireann (Irish parliament) of political parties.
“The Irish people expect and deserve better.”
“We have decided that we can no longer continue in government,” Mr Gormley added in a hastily-called news conference in a Dublin hotel.
However, Mr Gormley said the party would support the passage of the final piece of legislation underpinning the 2011 austerity budget.
The Greens said they would support the Finance Bill from the opposition benches and called on Cowen to speed up its passage.
Their decision to leave government and resign their ministries could now prompt an election before the March 11 date chosen by Mr Cowen last week.