By-elections blow for Irish government

Ireland’s minority Government has suffered a blow after failing to win any seats in four by-elections which could provide clues before the whole country goes to the polls next year.

Fine Gael is the country’s largest party and its tight margin for passing laws with the support of a coalition of independents will shrink further following the result of Friday’s vote in parts of Dublin and the south.

Contests were ordered to fill vacancies left by parliamentarians elected to the European Parliament in May.

Fine Gael leader and Irish premier Leo Varadkar faces a general election for the Dail parliament next spring while grappling with the ongoing impact of Brexit on his country’s economy.

Fine Gael candidate Verona Murphy (IRHA)
Fine Gael candidate Verona Murphy (IRHA)

He governs with the support of a number of independent members in the Dail.

While the economy is relatively buoyant, Mr Varadkar is facing fierce criticism from rivals Fianna Fail and left-wing opponents over issues like homelessness.

A vote of no confidence in his housing minister tabled by his political opponents is due to be held next week.

Mr Varadkar’s main political opponents, Fianna Fail, have agreed a confidence-and- supply arrangement where they will not support a motion of no confidence in the Government or veto financial measures like budgets.

By-elections were held this week in four constituencies.

Fianna Fail won two seats in Cork and Wexford.

Mr Varadkar’s candidate in Wexford in the south east, Verona Murphy, was embroiled in controversy after telling the Irish Times newspaper that Islamic State was “a big part of the migrant population”.

The Green Party took a seat in Dublin Fingal, while Sinn Fein took the Dublin Mid-West seat.

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