Belfast Telegraph

Ireland crisis talks: Frances Fitzgerald resigns - election threat subsides ... for now

Ireland's deputy prime minister Frances Fitzgerald has said she resigned over her handling of a whistleblower scandal to avoid an "unwelcome and potentially destabilising" snap election.

In a move which salvaged the minority Government, the former tanaiste said she had acted with integrity and responsibility throughout her political career.

Mrs Fitzgerald said she was putting the national interest ahead of her personal reputation.

"It has been the greatest honour of my life to serve in Government, but I believe it is necessary to take this decision to avoid an unwelcome and potentially destabilising general election at this historically critical time," she said in a statement.

"I have always believed in fairness and equality and these principles have guided my work as Minister for Children and Youth Affairs, as Minister for Justice and Equality, and now as Minister for Business, Enterprise and Innovation."

The resignation was revealed at a cabinet meeting and came hours before a planned motion of no confidence in her.

The scandal revolves around Mrs Fitzgerald's knowledge of an aggressive legal strategy against a respected Garda officer during a private inquiry in 2015.

And it threatened the fragile agreement which sees opposition party Fianna Fail prop up Taoiseach Leo Varadkar's minority Government.

Not only that, but the fallout is casting a long shadow over December's key Brexit summit, where the future of the border between the Irish Republic and Northern Ireland could be determined.

In her resignation statement, Mrs Fitzgerald thanked the Taoiseach, who had stood by her and previously insisted he did not want her to stand down.

She said he had shown the same courage and determination to protect her good name as he showed in 2014 when he defended whistleblower Sergeant Maurice McCabe and described him as distinguished.

"What I admire most about the Taoiseach is that he has always believed in doing what was right - not what was popular or politically expedient," she said.

"I will always be grateful for his confidence and support and for 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."

Mrs Fitzgerald acknowledged that continuing in a ministerial role risked destabilising the fragile minority Government.

Head over to Independent.ie for full coverage of events as they unfold.

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