The Irish Government has been thrown into crisis after its junior partner in the ruling coalition, the Green Party, called for a general election.
John Gormley, party leader and environment minister, said he wants a date for the vote to be set some time in the second half of January.
The dramatic call comes less than 24 hours after Irish cabinet ministers agreed to ask the International Monetary Fund and Europe for a multibillion euro bailout – a plea described as a humiliation for the country.
Mr Gormley said: “The past week has been a traumatic one for the Irish electorate. People feel misled and betrayed.
“But we have now reached a point where the Irish people need political certainty to take them beyond the coming two months. So we believe it is time to fix a date for a general election in the second half of January 2011.”
Irish Prime Minister Brian Cowen was told about the move and Mr Gormley said he expressed disappointment at the decision.
Mr Gormley said he wants the current coalition Government to achieve three things before going to the public: produce a credible four-year plan to show they can make the Budgets balance by 2014, expected this Wednesday; deliver a Budget for 2011, due on December 7; secure IMF/EU funding respecting vital Irish interests and restoring stability to the euro, expected in several weeks.
Flanked by eight members of the Greens’ parliamentary party, Mr Gormley said communication within Government was a real problem. He said it was a unanimous decision by the party to call for an election.
Later about 50 protesters, some from Sinn Fein, forced their way into a security hut at the front gates of Government Buildings.
Among the demonstrators was one of the party’s TDs, Aengus O Snodaigh.