Green Party junior minister Trevor Sargent has announced his resignation from the 26-County government.
The former Green Party leader came under pressure today after it was revealed he wrote to a member of the Garda police seeking to have a criminal prosecution dropped.
The individual in question faced a public order charge after he had a row on the street with a neighbour in Balbriggan, County Dublin in September 2007.
It was revealed that at least one of the letters Mr Sargent wrote to a member of the force on his behalf was on official state department of Agriculture headed notepaper.
Mr Sargent announced his decision to the Dublin parliament shortly before 5pm.
While there is a long history of members of the Dublin government using the Garda Suiochana for selfish purposes, there was surprise at the overt nature of Sargent’s actions. The Green Party has in the past portrayed itself as being opposed to the traditional close links between the larger establishment parties and the 26-County police.
It is the second resignation from the Fianna Fail/Green Party coalition in less than a week. It follows the departure of disgraced Fianna Fail Defence Minister Willie O’Dea, who blamed an act of High Court perjury on misinformation he received from the Gardai.
The two successive scandals have added ro the sense that the deeply unpopular coalition government, which holds a slim majority in parliament, is unravelling.
There had been reports of unease between the coalition partners over O’Dea’s demise, blamed by Fianna Fail backbenchers on demands by Green Party chairman Dan Boyle for a ‘head on a plate’.
The largest opposition party, Fine Gael, called on Mr Sargent to give a “detailed explanation” of the matter.
Labour justice spokesman Pat Rabbitte said it was a “grave matter”
“It is even more serious when it involves a Government minister and when the letter is written on departmental paper,” he said.
“It is of more than passing interest to know how this matter should come to light at this time and how a copy of the letter has been released to a journalist,” Mr Rabbitte added.