It’s a sign of where things have gotten to in Ireland that the country has a number of options for producing a constitutional crisis.Â In no particular order there are –
1.Â The Cabinet could fall below its constitutionally required minimum of 7 ministers.Â There are only 7 now, and 3 of them are running to succeed the Prime Minister in his just-resigned position as Fianna Fail party leader, of which they all are members.
2.Â The Cabinet could fail in its requirement to act as a collective.Â It was very close to this point when it went from 15 ministers to 9, with the Green Party refusing to approve replacements of the 6 and with Cabinet members talking openly about what were (or should have been) Cabinet discussions.Â The Greens eased this problem by resigning from Cabinet, but that accentuated problem 1.
3.Â The Prime Minister is almost certainly operating without theÂ confidence of a majority in parliament, but there are negotiations to avoid testing this with a vote.
4. The Minister for Finance could be perceived asÂ delaying important financial legislation to advance his personal party leadership ambitions, because he wants an election date as far way as possible.Â Â His negotiation strategy on this problem appears to rely partially on calling everyone’s bluff on problem 3.
5.Â The government is frequently invoking “rules” about political party prerogatives, even though the Constitution does not mention political parties at all.Â Â There is some aspect of thisÂ issue in all of problems 1-4 above.
6.Â The Prime Minister himself appears to have no positive powers at all; his only affirmative exercise of power at this stage would be to resign.Â Somewhat bizarrely, although this would solve problems 1-5, it seems to be the consensus least-preferred option at this point.