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article imageIrish minority government safe until 2020: opposition

By Joseph STENSON (AFP)     Dec 12, 2018 in World

Ireland's main opposition party on Wednesday agreed to prop up the country's minority government through 2019, pledging to deliver stability as the country braces for any potential fallout from Brexit.

With neighbouring Britain increasingly roiled by political turmoil ahead of its departure from the European Union -- set for March next year -- the Fianna Fail party vowed to remain in its governing partnership with its rivals Fine Gael.

"Fianna Fail is determined that the political chaos we see in London will not be allowed to spread to Ireland," opposition leader Micheal Martin told the Irish parliament.

"With business and communities already fearful about the impact of Brexit and with Ireland manifestly not ready for many of the potential outcomes, how could it possibly be in the national interest to have extended political uncertainty next year?"

"This is why Fianna Fail will extend a guarantee that government will be able to operate throughout 2019."

Ireland, which shares a border with British-ruled Northern Ireland, is concerned about the potential impact of Brexit -- heightened by recent political chaos across the Irish Sea.

British Prime Minister Theresa May will face a vote of no confidence on Wednesday evening, potentially triggering a leadership contest and raising the prospects of a possible no-deal Brexit.

The campaign to oust her has been spearheaded by hardline eurosceptics seeking a cleaner break from the EU bloc when Britain leaves.

By contrast Irish Prime Minister Leo Varadkar's tenure has been extended until at least 2020.

In his statement Martin said the extension of the "confidence and supply" agreement would allow for an election early that year.

He admitted the decision to extend the accord had been made reluctantly -- and did not hold back from criticising Varadkar's incumbent government, including for perceived inadequacies in its preparations for a no deal Brexit.

But in an editorial in the Irish Times on Wednesday foreign minister Simon Coveney said preparations for such an outcome will now become the "topic A" in Dublin.

In 2017 Varadkar was elevated to the role of prime minister at the age of 38, the youngest person to ever hold the highest office in Ireland.

He is also the country's first openly gay prime minister.

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