Irish government stumbles as post-Brexit election looms

  • In World
  • 2019-12-10 02:17:36Z
  • By AFP
Irish Prime Minister Leo Varadkar
Irish Prime Minister Leo Varadkar's Fine Gael party is beset by scandals which have cost his minority government the backing of rival party Fianna Fail  

Dublin (AFP) - As political chaos reigned across the sea in Britain, Ireland's two main parties have been working together to limit the damage of Brexit -- but not for much longer.

The alliance is cracking and both are now preparing for an election early next year, with Prime Minister Leo Varadkar's ruling Fine Gael party in a ramshackle state.

Beset by scandal, the centre-right party may even be forced from power before its pact with the main opposition Fianna Fail expires.

But Varadkar could win a boost if Britain, which holds its own election on Thursday, can break the political deadlock over leaving the European Union.

As Britain's closest neighbour, EU member Ireland stands most to lose from a disorderly divorce.

- A Brexit bonus? -

Fianna Fail initially agreed to prop up Varadkar's Fine Gael-led minority government in 2016, and the two sides pledged to extend the alliance through 2019 as Brexit headwinds grew worse.

Britain's EU exit risks huge economic disruption across the Irish Sea, particularly when it appeared earlier this year that it might leave the bloc with no new arrangements in place.

But if Prime Minister Boris Johnson is re-elected this week with a parliamentary majority, he promises to get Britain out of the bloc on January 31 with a deal.

The end to this period of prolonged uncertainty could give Varadkar a popularity boost, as the leader who avoided a no-deal divorce.

An October Irish Times/Ipsos MRBI found Varadkar had a 51 percent approval rating after key Brexit talks with Johnson, up 15 points in five months.

- Embarrassments -

After nine years in power, Fine Gael highlights its stewardship of the economy following a ruinous recession, as well as a new era of momentous social change.

As a mixed-race, gay and young prime minister, Varadkar himself is the embodiment of a leader keyed into the progressive attitude of a liberalising Ireland.

He took the Roman Catholic country known for deep religious conservatism into the landmark 2018 referendum that ended the ban on abortion.

But the party has been hit by a series of scandals and its poll ratings are suffering.

Mid-November results from a Business Post/Red C poll indicated support for Fine Gael at 30 percent, with a strong lead over Fianna Fail on 24 percent.

But Fine Gael was down two points as Fianna Fail remains constant.

Last month, Fine Gael lawmaker Maria Bailey was deselected from the party after a row over her decision to sue a hotel for a personal injuries claim.

Bailey fell from an indoor swing whilst holding a bottle of beer in 2015 and claimed she suffered a back injury.

But she ran a 10-kilometre (6.2-mile) race in under an hour three weeks later.

With Fine Gael pushing to reform Ireland's "compensation culture", her actions have been an acute embarrassment.

Last week MP Dara Murphy also resigned from the party, after reports he drew a salary and expenses whilst largely absent, working in Brussels with the European People's Party.

A Fine Gael candidate in a recent by-election, Verona Murphy, also apologised after telling the Irish Times that members of the Islamic State terror group formed "a big part of the migrant population" in Ireland.

Fine Gael failed to win any of the four seats up for grabs in the by-elections but two went to Fianna Fail.

"The precious commodity that is political momentum lies not with the government party but with the opposition," wrote state broadcaster RTE's political correspondent Micheal Lehane.

- 'End of the line' -

Fine Gael is also being grilled for growing concerns about healthcare and housing.

Key infrastructure projects including a national broadband plan and a children's hospital are running at inflated costs.

Some 215,000 children are on waiting lists for healthcare services, with more than one in four waiting for longer than a year, RTE reports.

Meanwhile, the number of homeless families has increased by 380 percent since October 2014, according to charity Focus Ireland.

Rents have risen for 14 consecutive quarters, according to property website Daft.

Last week a confidence motion was brought against housing minister Eoghan Murphy. With the support of independent MPs, he won by just three votes.

"It is abundantly clear the administration has reached the end of the line," wrote Irish Times political editor Pat Leahy.


More Related News

UK's Johnson, France's Macron reiterate commitment to Iran nuclear deal

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson and French President Emmanuel Macron reiterated their commitment on Sunday to the Iran nuclear deal and agreed a long-term framework was needed, Downing Street said on Sunday. "On Iran, the leaders reiterated their commitment to the JCPoA (Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action) and also acknowledged the need to define a long-term framework to prevent Iran acquiring a nuclear weapon," a Downing Street spokeswoman said in a statement after the two met on the sidelines of a Libya summit in Berlin.

Germany hosts Libya summit in bid to curb military meddling
Germany hosts Libya summit in bid to curb military meddling
  • World
  • 2020-01-19 07:47:38Z

Germany is bringing together the key players in Libya's long-running civil war in a bid to curb foreign military meddling, solidify a cease-fire and help relaunch a political process to determine the North African nation's future. Chancellor Angela Merkel invited leaders from 12 countries as well as the United Nations, the European Union, the African Union and the Arab League to Sunday's summit at the chancellery in Berlin. Germany's months-long diplomatic drive seeks to bolster efforts to stop the fighting in Libya by U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres and his envoy for Libya, Ghassan Salame.

UK plans Brexit celebrations but warns businesses may suffer
UK plans Brexit celebrations but warns businesses may suffer

The British government has announced plans for special events on the night of Jan. 31 when the country officially leaves the European Union but the country's treasury chief has admitted that some U.K. business sectors will suffer as a result. Sajid Javid told the Financial Times in an interview Saturday that Britain's regulations will not be aligned with the EU in the future and that those changes may hurt some businesses. Currently the EU is Britain's largest trading partner.

'Big Ben bongs for Brexit' battle turns pricey
  • World
  • 2020-01-17 15:04:44Z

Britain's bewildering battle to get Big Ben to bong for Brexit is becoming brutal -- and big-budget to boot as public cash donations flooded in Friday for a celebratory peal. Big Ben has been mostly silent since restoration work on parliament's Elizabeth Tower, which houses the clock, began in 2017. Parliamentary authorities say the floor in the tower workers use to look after the bell has been removed and the ringing devices taken out.

The UK is preparing to ignore Trump
The UK is preparing to ignore Trump's threats and strike a deal with Huawei as Boris Johnson is told to 'call their bluff'

Boris Johnson's administration is distancing itself from Trump amid repeated threats from the president to the United States' closest ally.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked with *

Cancel reply


Top News: World