21 Jan 2011

General election called in Ireland

5:24 pm on 21 January 2011

Prime minister Brian Cowen of Ireland has called a general election in March, after resignations by five more cabinet ministers.

Ireland is facing its gravest economic problems for decades.

The BBC reports support for the government has fallen sharply since it agreed in November to a bail-out of 85 billion euros from the EU and the International Monetary Fund.

The election will be held on 11 March.

"Prior to the general election we are committed to enacting key pieces of legislation to secure Ireland's economic future," the taoiseach (prime minister) told Parliament.

Mr Cowen insisted his government's policies had put Ireland on the path to recovery and economic growth.

"I want us to get through the hard times and see the country prosperous in the future," he said.

Mr Cowen announced the five vacated portfolios would go to existing ministers and he would take over foreign affairs himself.

Foreign Minister Micheal Martin resigned on Tuesday after failing in a bid to oust Mr Cowen from the leadership of the Fianna Fail party.

The BBC reported that Fianna Fail's opinion poll ratings have fallen to 14% after the coalition government was forced to accept the bailout at the end of last year.