On Tuesday Frances Fitzgerald announced that she was resigning “for the sake of the country and to avoid a General Election”. In doing so she brought to an end a week of political controversy which has severely damaged the confidence and supply arrangement between Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil.
She said: “I believe it is necessary to take this decision to avoid an unwelcome and potentially destabilising general election at this historically critical time.
“Throughout my career I have always sought to act with integrity and responsibility, and that is why I have decided on this occasion to put the national interest ahead of my own personal reputation”.
An Taoiseach Leo Varadkar accepted her resignation “with deep regret” before paying tribute to Fitzgerald, describing her as “a reforming minister” before claiming she had left without a fair hearing.
Reacting to Tuesday’s announcement, Fianna Fáil TD Eugene Murphy said it had become inevitable.
“As it progressed it became clear that it had to happen. I have respect for Frances Fitzgerald and I worked very closely with her, particularly when I used to chair the Dáil. I always found her very approachable and friendly but we just cannot have a situation where there can be any doubt about any document or any issue like that left hanging about”.
As for Taoiseach Leo Varadkar’s role in the affair, Deputy Murphy said: “Well I don’t say this with any dancing on a grave scenario but I think the Taoiseach handled this very, very poorly. It has been said quite clearly among his own people in Fine Gael that it hasn’t been his best day”.
Deputy Murphy added that he believed any general election as a result of the controversy would have resulted in “the lowest poll ever in Ireland”.
Independent TD Michael Fitzmaurice said the Tánaiste’s position had become “untenable”.
“I made it very clear last week when there was one email that I’d always give someone the benefit of the doubt. But what emerged on Monday made her position untenable, it was essentially a briefing document on how to handle the media. It proved that everyone knew what was going on.”
Deputy Fitzmaurice highlighted what he perceived as deeper problems within the Department of Justice.
“While Frances Fitzgerald is gone, no matter who comes in if the Department of Justice is not cleaned up, they’re going nowhere.
“A lot of Ministers aren’t grabbing the bull by the horns. There’s only one way and that’s appointing principal officers and assistant principal officers to the relevant departments. Ministers need to bring their own people in with them,” he concluded.