An Tanaiste Frances Fitzgerald has been under increasing pressure over the last 24 hours
POLITICIANS from across Limerick have welcomed the news that An Tanaiste Frances Fitzgerald is to step down, averting a Christmas election.
The Croom-born TD informed her cabinet colleagues of her decision to resign just after 11 o'clock this morning over the controversy around the handling of the case of Garda whistleblower Sgt Maurice McCabe.
In a statement, the Tanaiste thanked Taoiseach Leo Varadkar for his confidence and support, but her continuation in office would be "destabilising" to the "good work of the government, and the country can be spared an unnecessary election".
"It will also allow me to vindicate my good name at the Charleton Tribunal, wihout causing any further distraction to the work of the government," said the Dublin TD, "I acted correctly in difficult circumstances and in fact, I did everything I could to support the truth and protect whistleblowers."
Statement by Frances Fitzgerald on her Resignation as Tanaiste and Minister pic.twitter.com/naZsyjZfiW— Frances Fitzgerald (@FitzgeraldFrncs) November 28, 2017
Ms Fitzgerald has been under increasing pressure in the last 24 hours after it emerged she “noted” the contents of three separate emails sent to her office highlighting a row between the Garda Commissioners legal team and whistleblower Sgt Maurice McCabe.
The controversy had led to Fianna Fail demanding she step down – or it would force a motion of no confidence which would have collapsed the 32nd Dail.
Fianna Fail frontbencher, Limerick TD Niall Collins said it is likely this will not happen now.
"As far as we were concerned, this was an issue of political accountability in relation to the Tanaiste and the former Minister for Justice. I don't see any reason why there will now be a general election given she has resigned. I think the public will breathe a collective sigh of relief that she has finally decided to do the right thing. The country faces so many critical challenges at the moment not least the importance and the critical point we are at with the Brexit negotiations, with homelessness, with housing, we have issues in relation to crime and the two-tier recovery: Dublin versus the rest. A general election would completely distract and disadvantage the country were it to be held now," he said.
Fine Gael councillor Daniel Butler, who was the first local party member last night to publicly call for the Trade Minister’s resignation, welcomed the move.
He said: "I felt her position was no longer tenable. I think she has made the right decision for the sake not just of the party but for the sake of the country and avoided a Christmas election. I think there is a bigger question here. We are seeing a Department which is in complete disarray. There seems to be a total dysfunction at senior level in the department. It's not just about seeing a minister step down. I think there needs to a number of senior officials follow suit. There seems to be a whole level of incompetence there."
Sinn Fein TD Maurice Quinlivan turned fire on Taoiseach Varadkar for his insistence Ms Fitzgerald should remain on.
"He has damaged his credibility as a result. Fine Gael Ministers and TDs were sent out over the weekend to defend the Tánaiste and their government’s position on this, and left with egg on their faces as a result of today’s events. Taoiseach Leo Varadkar has acted recklessly in the past week by allowing such a situation to escalate like it did, and the arrogance shown by Fine Gael has damaged the de facto coalition agreement with Fianna Fáil and brought an election much closer," he said.
His party colleague, Sinn Fein Senator Paul Gavan said while a Christmas election is off the table, there will likely be one early in 2018.
"We should all recognise an election is coming. The confidence and supply agreement is broken. Two other key people have questions to answer: Charlie Flanagan who sat beside the Taoiseach while he was misleading the Dail, knowing he was doing so. Leo Varadkar knew of this on Saturday and sat on it, and left his ministerial team go out and bat knowing she was dead in the water once this became public," he said.
Solidarity councillor Cian Prendiville, who was expected to run on the party ticket in the event of a pre-Christmas election, said: "It was obvious she had to go. It's ridiculous that they put people through this 'will they, won't they?'. It went right to the wire. She should have gone at the very beginning. But she cannot just be the one scapegoat. Questions now have to be asked of Charlie Flanagan and Leo Varadkar who knew of this latest revelation last week but said nothing. This is only the start of lifting the lid on this."