By Fiachra Ó Cionnaith
Controversial Fine Gael member Barry Walsh has resigned from the party's executive council with immediate effect amid an avalanche of criticism over his Twitter comments about party colleagues.
In a short statement just before 4pm today, a Fine Gael spokesperson confirmed the executive council's chairman Gerry O'Connell "received and accepted the resignation of Barry Walsh" from the high-ranking group at 3.15pm.
The statement continued that "the resignation takes effect immediately".
It was revealed at this Wednesday's Fine Gael parliamentary party meeting by party TD Kate O'Connell that Mr Walsh has been sending abusive tweets to a number of female politicians including Ms O'Connell in recent months.
Both individuals clashed during the party's debate on the future of the eighth amendment at the Fine Gael national conference on Saturday.
Speaking before Mr Walsh's resignation from Gottenburg in Sweden this morning, Mr Varadkar said: "Mr Walsh’s conduct is below the standards of what I’d expect from a Fine Gael officer.
"There are lots of trolls, lots of nasty people, and lots of horrible language on Twitter, but I expect Fine Gael officers to set a higher standard and I think at this stage it would be for the best if he resigned and stepped down as a member of the Fine Gael Executive Council pending disciplinary procedure which is now under way."
In his resignation letter, Mr Walsh said: "I am writing to tender my resignation from the Fine Gael Executive Council, effective today.
"I am doing so out of respect for the membership of the Fine Gael party, and for the Taoiseach in particular, in order to prevent any further distraction in relation to this issue.
"I also do so in the hope that it may bring an end to the 'trial by media', which has occurred in the last 48 hours and placed intolerable pressure on my family and friends.
"I deeply regret the tone and language I used in some of my tweets. I realise that some of my remarks have caused serious offence to many people and I apologise unreservedly for that. As you know, I first got involved in politics because I have passionate views on many issues and have always enjoyed robust political debate, however I accept that with many of these tweets I took the political jousting a step too far.
"I look forward to this matter being considered by the Fine Gael Executive Council at its earliest convenience, and I am resigning without prejudice to any disciplinary investigation which may be undertaken by the party in relation to this matter."