Irish government on verge of collapse ahead of EU Brexit summit
Irish government on verge of collapse ahead of EU Brexit summit
The crisis comes three weeks ahead of a EU summit in which the Irish government has an effective veto on whether Britain’s talks on leaving the bloc progress as it determines if EU concerns about the future of the Irish border have been met.
In a row that escalated rapidly, the opposition Fianna Fail party said it would put a motion of no confidence in Deputy Prime Minister Frances Fitzgerald before parliament on Tuesday over her handling of a legal case involving a police whistleblower.
That would break the three-year “confidence and supply” agreement that allowed Varadkar’s Fine Gael party to form a minority government 18 months ago.
Fianna Fail initially indicated it might withdraw its threat if Fitzgerald resigned but Fine Gael members of parliament passed a unanimous motion of support in Fitzgerald at an emergency meeting on Thursday evening.
Asked after Fine Gael’s statement whether the country was headed for an election, a senior Fianna Fail source replied: “Straight toward one.”
The source declined to be named as the party’s frontbench was due to hold an emergency meeting early on Friday to decide its next move.
“This is ... dangerous politically at a time when the country does not need an election,” Foreign Minister Simon Coveney of Fine Gael told national Irish broadcaster RTE, in an apparent reference to the Brexit talks he had earlier described as a “historic moment” for the island of Ireland.
The border between Ireland and Northern Ireland, which will be the UK’s only land frontier with the bloc after its departure, is one of three issues Brussels wants broadly solved before it decides next month on whether to move the talks onto a second phase about trade, as Britain wants.
Coveney told parliament on Thursday that the government was not yet ready to allow the talks to move on to the trade issues at the Dec. 14-15 summit and needed more clarity from London.
A breakdown of the government’s cooperation deal, which has worked relatively smoothly up until now between two parties that differ little on policy but have been bitter foes for decades, would likely lead to an election in December or January.
The Fianna Fail move comes after Fitzgerald admitted she was made aware of an attempt to discredit a police whistleblower in a 2015 email, but failed to act. Fine Gael say she adhered to due process.
Since Varadkar’s appointment as Fine Gael leader in May, his party has narrowly led Fianna Fail in opinion polls that suggest both parties would increase their support but still struggle to form anything but another minority government.
Fury clouds funeral plans for Italy bridge victims
- The collapse of the Morandi bridge, a decades-old viaduct that crumbled in a storm on Tuesday killing at least 38 people, has stunned and angered the country
- According to La Stampa newspaper, the families of 17 victims have refused to take part in the state funeral, while a further seven have yet to decide whether they will attend
GENOA: Grieving relatives wept over the coffins of dozens of victims of Genoa’s bridge disaster Friday amid growing fury over a planned state funeral, while rescuers pressed on with their tireless search for those missing in the rubble.
The collapse of the Morandi bridge, a decades-old viaduct that crumbled in a storm on Tuesday killing at least 38 people, has stunned and angered the country, with Italian media reporting that some outraged families would shun Saturday’s official ceremonies.
Italy’s government has blamed the operator of the viaduct for the tragedy and threatened to strip the firm of its contracts, while the country’s creaking infrastructure has come under fresh scrutiny.
Authorities plan a state funeral service on Saturday at a hall in Genoa, coinciding with a day of mourning.
Relatives who gathered at the hall on Friday embraced and prayed over lines of coffins, many adorned with flowers and photographs of the dead.
But according to La Stampa newspaper, the families of 17 victims have refused to take part, while a further seven have yet to decide whether they will attend.
“It is the state who has provoked this; let them not show their faces, the parade of politicians is shameful,” the press cited the mother of one of four young Italians from Naples who died.
The father of another of the dead from Naples took to social media to vent his anger.
“My son will not become a number in the catalogue of deaths caused by Italian failures,” said his grieving father, Roberto.
“We do not want a farce of a funeral but a ceremony at home.”
Despite fading hopes of finding survivors, rescue workers said they had not given up as they resumed the dangerous operation to search through the unstable mountains of debris.
“Is there anyone there? Is there anyone there?” one firefighter shouted into a cavity dug out of the piles of concrete and twisted metal, in a video published by the emergency services.
Between 10 and 20 people are still missing, according to Genoa’s chief prosecutor.
Ten people remain in hospital, six of them in a serious condition.
Hundreds of rescuers are using cranes and bulldozers to cut up and remove the biggest slabs of the fallen bridge, which slammed down onto railway tracks along with dozens of vehicles.
“We are trying to find pockets in the rubble where people could be — alive or not,” fire official Emanuele Gissi told AFP.
Officials say about 1,000 people in all are working on the disaster site, 350 of them firefighters.
The populist government has accused infrastructure giant Autostrade per L’Italia of failing to invest in sufficient maintenance and said it would seek to revoke its lucrative contracts.
Interior Minister Matteo Salvini demanded that the company offer up to 500 million euros ($570 million) to help families and local government deal with the aftermath of the disaster.
The dead also include children, one as young as eight, and three Chileans and four French nationals.
The French nationals, all in their 20s, had traveled to Italy for a music festival, and other victims included a family setting off on holiday and a couple returning from their California honeymoon.
More than 600 people were evacuated from around a dozen apartments beneath the remaining shard of bridge.
On Thursday evening the first residents of some buildings in the affected area were allowed to return home, though others are too badly damaged to save.
The Morandi viaduct dates from the 1960s and has been riddled with structural problems for decades, leading to expensive maintenance and severe criticism from engineering experts.
Its collapse prompted fears over aging infrastructure across the world.
Italy has announced a year-long state of emergency in the region.
Autostrade, which operates and maintains nearly half of Italy’s motorways, estimates it will take five months to rebuild the bridge.
It denies scrimping on motorway maintenance, saying it has invested over one billion euros a year in “safety, maintenance and strengthening of the network” since 2012.
Atlantia, the holding company of Autostrade which is 30 percent owned by iconic fashion brand Benetton, has warned that the government would have to refund the value of the contract, which runs until at least 2038.
Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte said Autostrade “had the duty and obligation to assure the maintenance of this viaduct and the security of all those who traveled on it.”
The disaster is the latest in a string of bridge collapses in Italy, where infrastructure generally is showing the effects of a faltering economy.
Senior government figures have also lashed out at austerity measures imposed by the European Union, saying they restrict investment.
But the European Commission said it had given Rome billions of euros to fix infrastructure.