Varadkar crisis: Irish leader faces disaster after vote humiliation

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The Taoiseach (Irish prime minister) is also under pressure due to the looming vote of no-confidence in his housing minister, with Fine Gael leading a fragile confidence-and-supply minority Government. Opposition parties have swept the boards in the by-elections ahead of a general election expected next year. And, with Mr Varadkar’s party occupying just 48 of the 158 parliamentary seats, the vote on Eoghan Murphy could come down to the wire.

Although Mr Varadkar has won plaudits for his stewardship of the Irish and EU ’s Brexit negotiations with the UK, his minority government has been heavily criticised for a housing crisis, health service failings and big cost overruns on key infrastructure projects.

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One close Varadkar ally said: “We’re not celebrating.

“We’re not pretending it’s a good day.

“It’s an average to poor day for the government.

“That’s the way it is, that’s what by-elections turn up.”

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The Taoiseach’s expectations were low going into the count on Saturday as Irish governments rarely win by-elections.

Turnout was low, with only 25.6percent of voters casting ballots in one Dublin constituency.

But the lack of even a single success in contests that follow the departure of four MPs to the European Parliament is a setback that puts his centre-right Fine Gael party in line for a tough re-election campaign in 2020.

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Mr Varadkar’s government is also facing a motion of no confidence in Minister for Housing Eoghan Murphy in the Dáil on Tuesday.

Mr Varadkar’s allies expect his housing minister to survive a confidence vote in parliament next Tuesday, which would topple the government if it succeeded.

However, the vote depends on the support of Independent MPs who have no formal alliance with the government but usually vote with it.

The confidence-and-supply deal was due to lapse a year ago but they agreed to keep the government in office because of Brexit uncertainty.

Ireland is the EU country most exposed to economic risks from a no-deal Brexit, other than Britain itself.

If Britain’s exit from the EU is confirmed after next month’s UK election, analysts expect an Irish election will quickly follow.

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Fissures are appearing within the party with several senior Fine Gael figures affirming they expected a Vernona Murphy to be deselected as a candidate after a campaign in Wexford which caused deep unease throughout the party.

The Verona Murphy deselection call is a result of controversy when he suggested that the influence of violent Islamic fundamentalists might have sown seed in some numbers of asylum seekers, including their young children.

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While she subsequently apologised, a campaign video she posted last week in which she complained of “character assassination in the media” has caused alarm in Fine Gael.

The video was disavowed by both the Taoiseach and Minister for Finance Paschal Donohoe.

A party spokesman said it was not “endorsed, approved or supported by Fine Gael”.

A large number of Ministers, TDs and officials who spoke to The Irish Times on Sunday said they wanted and expected to see Ms Murphy removed as a candidate.

TDs said they had been encouraged not to speak publicly on the subject.

A TD, or Teachta Dála, is a member of Dáil Éireann, the lower house of the Oireachtas (the Irish Parliament).

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Varadkar crisis as party loses FOUR by-elections ‘We’re not pretending it’s a good day’

The Taoiseach (Irish prime minister) is also under pressure due to the looming vote of no-confidence in his housing minister, with Fine Gael leading a fragile confidence-and-supply minority Government. Opposition parties have swept the boards in the by-elections ahead of a general election expected next year.

The Taoiseach (Irish prime minister) is also under pressure due to the looming vote of no-confidence in his housing minister, with Fine Gael leading a fragile confidence-and-supply minority Government. Opposition parties have swept the boards in the by-elections ahead of a general election expected next year.

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