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    Ireland's Taoiseach Leo Varadkar arrives at the EU summit meeting in Brussels, Belgium, October 19, 2017.

    Ireland's Taoiseach Hopes to Steady the Ship Ahead of Key Brexit Talks - Scholar

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    Irish Deputy Prime Minister Frances Fitzgerald has decided to resign "for the sake of the country" in a bid to avert a snap general election.

    Leo Varadkar, who has served as Taoiseach (the prime minister, chief executive and head of government of Ireland) since June 2017, said he had accepted Fitzgerald's resignation with "deep regret".

    READ MORE: Ireland to Stand Firm on Brexit Following Fitzgerald's Resignation

    There were fears that an Irish election could have complicated next month's EU meeting, at which the Republic of Ireland's position will influence the assessment of the UK's progress in Brexit talks.

    Dr Muiris MacCarthaigh Senior Lecturer in Politics, at Queen's University Belfast spoke to Sputnik about the future of the government ahead of a key EU Summit on Brexit next month.

    Sputnik: Where will this leave the Irish government?

    Dr MacCarthaigh: Yeah it’s been quite tricky and the Taoiseach Prime Minister has taken on her portfolio temporarily because she was deputy Prime Minister but she also had held a ministerial portfolio as well. Gender is an issue in modern politics and so it was a pity to lose one of his more well-seasoned female ministers as it were with lots of experience, so he’s got to think about who he is going to delegate that portfolio to now and what the gender balance will be and geographical regional balance is important when making up Irish government cabinets as well, so he’s going to have to think about that, a lot of the media commentary has just been about what damage has been inflicted on him as Prime Minister arising from the situation and the fact this dragged on for a few days and it’s quite serious possibility of an election at a sensitive time in Anglo-Irish relations.

    Sputnik: Mr Varadkar has said he will take over her duties temporarily, who is likely to replace Frances Fitzgerald?

    Dr MacCarthaigh: A lot of the crisis arose from difficulties in the Department of justice from when she was minister. The Prime Minister has announced a review of the department, there has been a lot of very serious concerns or governance of the relationship between the department and the police in recent years and I think the Taoiseach now is pretty unhappy about that and he’s announced a review of the department. So I think in that context he may indeed put somebody new, he might replace the minister whose currently head of that portfolio, he might bring in somebody more junior, obviously bring them into cabinet. A lot of the discussions at the moment now is it just a matter of when in 2018 there’s going to be a general election, that the current arrangement, whereby the Irish government is in a minority position in Parliament, it’s only propped up by the confidence and supply of the main opposition party but that has been severely tested and the general feeling I think in Dublin is that they wouldn’t survive another major falling out or scandal, if that’s the term arising. So preparing for an election next year, I’m sure the Taoiseach will be thinking of that in mind as well, I mean who would be a very safe pair of hands, so they can go into the election with the we are the party of good government slogan.

    READ MORE: Brexit 'Chaos in UK Government' Is Alarming Leaders of Republic of Ireland

    Sputnik: Could this affect the upcoming Brexit negotiations?

    Dr MacCarthaigh: A lot of the commentary, the media commentary in Ireland was, it was head in hands stuff, in terms of this is the worst possible time I mean literally in living memory that you could have an election, it’s not just that it's coming up to Christmas but there is a real realization that the European Council meeting that’s coming up in a week and a half is one of the most serious in Irish political and economic interests in living memory. Obviously Ireland is one of 27 EU member states who will be deciding whether or not to proceed to stage 2 of the Brexit negotiations with the United Kingdom and there is very very deep concern in Ireland, have to say on the island of Ireland, speaking from Belfast about what exactly is going to happen with the Irish border and there is a general feeling that this not being thought through at all by the negotiators on the British side about what exactly what shape, what form, how the border is going to operate. The potential for an absolute calamity in terms of economic and political on the island as I say and this is absolutely a time when we need a resolute government on the Irish side, so the last thing that was wanted was an election, which would you know, you’d still have a government, the Taoiseach would be there negotiating on behalf of Ireland, but there would be sense that he wouldn’t have the authority of the Irish parliament behind him if an election campaign was under way. So that’s been averted so it’s going to be very important two weeks.


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