Dáil suspended as Opposition demand answers over resignations

Proceedings in the Dáil have been suspended until 1.30pm as Opposition leaders refused to allow the chamber conduct its planned business until the Taoiseach Brian Cowen had explained the recent resignations of six of his Cabinet Ministers.

Proceedings in the Dáil have been suspended until 1.30pm as Opposition leaders refused to allow the chamber conduct its planned business until the Taoiseach Brian Cowen had explained the recent resignations of six of his Cabinet Ministers.

There is speculation that the Taoiseach is planning to name a new Cabinet.

Mr Cowen was also understood to be preparing a statement in the Dáil to appoint new ministers following a mass exodus in the last 24 hours.

One departing minister, Noel Dempsey, claimed the Taoiseach had planned the series of dramatic resignations en masse.

The Government has been hit by resignations from Mary Harney from health, Dermot Ahern from justice, Mr Dempsey from transport and Tony Killeen from defence in the last 24 hours, following Micheal Martin's departure from foreign affairs after a failed leadership challenge.

A sixth minister, Batt O’Keeffe, Minster for Enterprise, Trade and Innovation, is understood to have tendered his resignation this morning.

The Dáil was suspended for 15 minutes during rowdy scenes this morning after the Opposition demanded the Taoiseach come into the House and clarify who is in charge of the six departments.

Fine Gael leader Enda Kenny demanded the proceedings be suspended until the Taoiseach explains what is happening in Government.

“This is the worst government in history,” Mr Kenny said.

“This would not have happened even in the days of great dictators. It is unprecedented, what you have done.”

He added: “These are the last days of the worst government in the history of the state.”

Mr Kenny accused the Taoiseach of a “cowardly, disgraceful act” and that he was “refusing to come in here today to tell the people of his country what is happening with a Government that has imploded, with a Government that is dysfunctional, that has disintegrated, and that had let our people down”.

Labour leader Eamon Gilmore claimed the affair was unprecedented and eccentric.

“What is happening here this morning is disrespectful of the people of this country,” Mr Gilmore said.

“There is some some kind of political cynical exercise in last-minute jobbery being hatched by this Government.”

The Green Party is understood to be frustrated over the sudden departures.

John Gormley, Green leader and Environment Minister, spoke to Mr Cowen about the Cabinet vacancies this morning and will discuss the expected reshuffle with his parliamentary party later today.

The party said in November they wanted a date for the election to be announced in the last two weeks of January. They warned yesterday the date should be no later than March.

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