Parties jostle for power as Reynolds goes

Albert Reynolds stood down as Prime Minister of Ireland yesterday while the man behind his political demise, Harry Whelehan, resigned as High Court President in a day of political drama in Dublin.

It was Mr Reynolds' promotion of Mr Whelehan last Friday that caused the Labour Party to quit the coalition government.

Bertie Ahern, the Fianna Fail Finance Minister, is favourite to take over from Mr Reynolds, who is likely to remain as leader until a party meeting on Saturday to choose a successor. Mr Ahern is expected to face a challenge from Maire Geoghegan-Quinn, the Justice Minister.

John Major wrote to Mr Reynolds yesterday praising his role in the Northern Ireland peace process and emphasising Britain's determination to press ahead with the initiative. However, there was concern among senior British ministers at the possibility that Dick Spring, the Labour leader and Irish Foreign Minister, may not serve in any new Irish government.

In his letter to Mr Reynolds, Mr Major wrote: ``I know that others will carry on where you have left off; and I know that you will continue your committed support for the process.''

But many uncertainties remain before a new government can take shape. Last night brought another bizarre twist when news of Mr Whelehan's resignation caused speculation that Mr Reynolds might yet be resurrected from the political dead. This seemed most unlikely, as Labour Party sources indicated they were not prepared to serve under him.

Yesterday morning Mr Reynolds bade a poignant farewell to power in the Dail, saying he looked forward to spending more time with his family. He announced his intention to resign as it became clear that substantial sections of his party were in favour of his departure.

On Wednesday night he admitted to the Dail that he had given an inaccurate account of the failure to extradite a Catholic priest, Fr Brendan Smyth, to face child sex-abuse charges.

There is as yet no sign of a general election as complicated manoeuvres began to elect a new Fianna Fail leader. This is expected to be a prelude to a period of horse-trading aimed at stitching together a new coalition.

In Dublin last night the most likely outcome appeared to be the election of Mr Ahern as successor to Mr Reynolds, followed by a new Ahern-Spring coalition. One looming deadline falls on Tuesday, when the Dail resumes. One possible problem is that Labour might find Mr Ahern unacceptable because he was also aware that the Dail had been misled about the Smyth case.

Other possibilities included a ``rainbow coalition'' of smaller parties excluding Fianna Fail or, if all negotiations fail, a general election.

Mr Spring, who remains pivotal to any new arrangement, said: ``The options are that you put some form of government together, or you fail to put a government together and then you have an election. It's all very simple - sitting down to do it isn't that simple, mind you.'' In radio and television interviews yesterday he steadfastly declined to comment on which Fianna Fail candidates might be acceptable to him. ``I'm not in the position of qualifying or disqualifying people from co-operating with the Labour Party,'' he said.

The weekend is expected to be a period of both stocktaking and political manoeuvring after an extraordinary week in Irish politics. One Fianna Fail backbencher, Micheal Martin, said: ``There's a sense of bewilderment and a sense of disbelief, still, that this has happened. It's still baffling me.''

The general feeling last night was that the peace process was unlikely to be threatened in the medium term.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Life and Style
love + sex
Life and Style
Tikka Masala has been overtaken by Jalfrezi as the nation's most popular curry
food + drink
News
people
Voices
A propaganda video shows Isis forces near Tikrit
voicesAdam Walker: The Koran has violent passages, but it also has others that explicitly tells us how to interpret them
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Installation and Service Engineer - Doors / Windows

£18000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This specialist designer and ma...

Recruitment Genius: Systems Developer

£26000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A market leading provider of tu...

Recruitment Genius: Sales Consultant - OTE £30,000+

£15000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity...

Recruitment Genius: Area Sales Manager - Designate South

£25000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: One of the UK's leading electro...

Day In a Page

Syrian conflict is the world's first 'climate change war', say scientists, but it won't be the last one

Climate change key in Syrian conflict

And it will trigger more war in future
How I outwitted the Gestapo

How I outwitted the Gestapo

My life as a Jew in wartime Berlin
The nation's favourite animal revealed

The nation's favourite animal revealed

Women like cuddly creatures whilst men like creepy-crawlies
Is this the way to get young people to vote?

Getting young people to vote

From #VOTESELFISH to Bite the Ballot
Poldark star Heida Reed: 'I don't think a single bodice gets ripped'

Poldark star Heida Reed

'I don't think a single bodice gets ripped'
The difference between America and Israel? There isn’t one

The difference between America and Israel? There isn’t one

Netanyahu knows he can get away with anything in America, says Robert Fisk
Families clubbing together to build their own affordable accommodation

Do It Yourself approach to securing a new house

Community land trusts marking a new trend for taking the initiative away from developers
Head of WWF UK: We didn’t send Cameron to the Arctic to see green ideas freeze

David Nussbaum: We didn’t send Cameron to the Arctic to see green ideas freeze

The head of WWF UK remains sanguine despite the Government’s failure to live up to its pledges on the environment
Author Kazuo Ishiguro on being inspired by shoot-outs and samurai

Author Kazuo Ishiguro on being inspired by shoot-outs and samurai

Set in a mythologised 5th-century Britain, ‘The Buried Giant’ is a strange beast
With money, corruption and drugs, this monk fears Buddhism in Thailand is a ‘poisoned fruit’

Money, corruption and drugs

The monk who fears Buddhism in Thailand is a ‘poisoned fruit’
America's first slavery museum established at Django Unchained plantation - 150 years after slavery outlawed

150 years after it was outlawed...

... America's first slavery museum is established in Louisiana
Kelly Clarkson: How I snubbed Simon Cowell and become a Grammy-winning superstar

Kelly Clarkson: How I snubbed Simon Cowell and become a Grammy-winning superstar

The first 'American Idol' winner on how she manages to remain her own woman – Jane Austen fascination and all
Tony Oursler on exploring our uneasy relationship with technology with his new show

You won't believe your eyes

Tony Oursler's new show explores our uneasy relationship with technology. He's one of a growing number of artists with that preoccupation
Ian Herbert: Peter Moores must go. He should never have been brought back to fail again

Moores must go. He should never have been brought back to fail again

The England coach leaves players to find solutions - which makes you wonder where he adds value, says Ian Herbert
War with Isis: Fears that the looming battle for Mosul will unleash 'a million refugees'

The battle for Mosul will unleash 'a million refugees'

Aid agencies prepare for vast exodus following planned Iraqi offensive against the Isis-held city, reports Patrick Cockburn