Wobbly Irish government sets election date

Ireland will hold a general
election on 11 March prime minister Brian Cowen has announced.

The announcement follows the
resignation of six Cabinet ministers.

 Mary Harney from health, Dermot Ahern from
justice, Noel Dempsey from transport, Tony Killeen from defence, and Batt
O’Keeffe from enterprise have all quit.

Their departures came on the back
of the resignation of Micheal Martin from foreign affairs on Tuesday night after
a failed leadership challenge.

Mr Cowen was believed to be
plotting a reshuffle to fill the empty Cabinet seats.

But in an apparent U-turn under
pressure from junior coalition government partners the Green Party, the
portfolios were being reassigned.

In statement to the Irish
parliament, the Taoiseach said the coalition government would continue in power
until the finance bill, giving effect to the 2011 budget, and other important
legislation is passed.

Mr Cowen said: “I believe it
is important in the weeks ahead that the government gives legislative effect to
the budget through the enactment of the finance bill and other related bills
which benefit the people.

“There’s nothing more
important than doing precisely that.”