Certain to lose a parliamentary nonconfidence vote, Irish Prime Minister Albert Reynolds resigned. Labour Leader Dick Spring forced the issue by withdrawing his party’s support from the two-year-old coalition government after Reynolds appointed controversial former attorney general Harry Whelehan as president, or director, of the high court. Whelehan had been embroiled in controver-
sy after critics accused his office of delaying action on an extradition request from Northern Ireland for the arrest of suspected pedophile Rev. Brendan Smyth. (Smyth, a Roman Catholic priest, was jailed for four years in June when he returned voluntarily to Northern Ireland to face multiple sex charges covering a 24-year period.) After first defending his promotion of Whelehan, Reynolds, who heads the Fianna Fail party, later offered an hour-long apology to Parliament. But
Spring was not swayed, leaving Reynolds little choice but to step down. Perhaps Reynolds’s biggest risk was the Northern Ireland peace plan that he forged last year with British Prime Minister John Major. So far, it has paid off. Rival Protestant and Catholic guerrilla groups declared ceasefires in recent months, offering the British province a glimmer of hope after 25 years of sectari-
an violence. But the collapse of Reynolds’s government could slow the pace of the Anglo-Irish quest for peace. Martin McGuinness, a vice-president of Sinn Fein, the political wing of the Irish Republican Army, said that political instability in Dublin “would affect the continuity, the momentum and the confidence-building, which have been central elements to the peace process.” Still, McGuinness said his party remained willing to negotiate.
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