Ireland's Green Party quits government of the Brian Cowen

The Republic of Ireland's Green Party is pulling out of the ruling coalition, a move expected to bring forward the general election due on the 11 March.

The party's announcement, after a meeting in Dublin, follows a decision on Saturday by PM Brian Cowmen to quit as leader of his Fianna Fail party.

Mr Cowen had said he would stay on as PM until the election, a move opponents had described as "farcical".

The Greens' decision wipes out the ruling coalition's two-seat majority.

Fianna Fail had urged the Greens to stay in government to ensure financial legislation - which is key to Ireland's international bail-out package - was passed before the election.

Ireland was forced to accept the 85bn euro ($113bn; £72bn) EU and IMF bail-out in November last year.

The Greens will join the opposition benches immediately.

But the party said it would still support the finance bill and hoped Fianna Fail would fast-track the legislation so it could be approved speedily.

Green Party leader John Gormley, talking after a meeting in a Dublin hotel, said: "Our patience has reached an end. We have decided that we can no longer continue in government."

The BBC's Ireland correspondent Mark Simpson says it's now highly likely an election will be held in February.

He says Mr Cowen has 2 options - either fall on his sword and call an immediate election or go to the opposition parties and try to get their support for the finance bill and an agreement on the date for the new election.


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