Greens threaten to halt coalition
Ireland's junior coalition party, the Greens, have threatened to bring down the Government in a row over filling Cabinet seats left empty by a string of ministerial resignations.
Amid chaos over vacant positions, leader John Gormley said his party had warned Taoiseach Brian Cowen that it would not vote for unilateral changes.
Mr Gormley revealed that he was not notified of the announcement late on Wednesday night of five ministerial resignations.
"I had no indication whatsoever that there were going to be any resignations," he said.
Detailing an almost complete breakdown in communications with the senior Government party Fianna Fail, Mr Gormley said new Cabinet appointments were initially put forward as a fait accompli.
The Green leader said he warned his party would vote against the new, short-term appointments ahead of a March election threatening the future of the coalition. Mr Gormley said he phoned the Taoiseach after a 7am news bulletin reported that a major Cabinet reshuffle was on the cards. "I expressed my surprise and dismay," he said. "I repeated the line that I really didn't think it was a good idea."
Earlier, Green Party TD Paul Gogarty said the ministerial walkouts threaten to turn Government into a farce at a crucial time and has more to do with Fianna Fail's interests. Mr Gogarty said the resignations were a shock. "No matter what the motivations of the individuals concerned, appointing five new ministers at this critical juncture would smack of jobs for the boys and cosmetic surgery for endangered candidates in need of a makeover," he said.
The 15-member Cabinet was left almost half empty late on Wednesday night after Mary Harney left health, Dermot Ahern left justice, Tony Killeen left defence and Noel Dempsey left transport. Mr Cowen had already taken on foreign affairs duties after rebel Micheal Martin resigned following a failed leadership challenge on Tuesday.
Batt O'Keeffe, a long time friend of the Taoiseach's, dramatically added to the chaos by resigning from the Cabinet on Thursday morning.
Mr Gormley said he believed the public would not stand for new ministers being appointed with the Government in its dying days. He added: "I have to tell you that there were other ministers from the Fianna Fail party who thought it was not a good idea."