, DUBLIN, Jan 20 – Four Irish cabinet ministers have resigned in a surprise move that comes a day after the foreign minister quit following his failed attempt to oust Prime Minister Brian Cowen, reports said Thursday.
The exodus of four ministers late on Wednesday on top of the departure of Micheal Martin, who was foreign minister, leaves the Irish cabinet missing more than a quarter of its members.
The Irish Times newspaper said that the latest resignations paved the way for a reshuffle planned by the prime minister ahead of a general election expected in March.
It is the latest political upheaval in Ireland amid fierce criticism of the government\’s handling of an economic crisis that saw it pushed into accepting an EU-IMF bailout worth tens of billions of euros.
Health Minister Mary Harney; Justice Minister Dermot Ahern; Transport Minister Noel Dempsey and Defence Minister Tony Killeen tendered their resignations to the premier late on Wednesday, the Irish Times and state broadcaster RTE said.
The letters of resignation would be handed to the president with a recommendation they are accepted, said the Irish Times, citing a government statement.
All of the ministers who resigned had announced they do not intend to contest the forthcoming election, said the newspaper, adding that the appointment of new ministers is expected in the next day or two.
Martin quit on Tuesday after the prime minister, or Taoiseach, won a confidence vote of his ruling Fianna Fail party\’s lawmakers on his leadership.
Martin had called for a new leader of Fianna Fail, the main party in a coalition with the Green party, and refused to back the prime minister in the crunch vote because of his handling of the economic crisis.