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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Struggle Begins in Ireland To Find Reynolds' Successor

DUBLIN -- A power struggle was under way Friday to replace Albert Reynolds as leader of Ireland's conservative Fianna Fail party.


Reynolds is due formally to resign as party leader at a meeting Saturday which will also choose a successor, with Finance Minister Bertie Ahern and Justice Minister Maire Geoghegan-Quinn the main contenders for the post.


Geoghegan-Quinn said Northern Ireland's peace process was the most important issue facing Ireland's new leader -- and pointed out she has been closely involved in the peace process.


But Ahern is the favorite. He has a good record in the key finance post and a strong power base in Dublin, where one third of the population lives.


However, the future shape of a new adminstration will depend principally on former Deputy Prime Minister Dick Spring, whose decision to pull his Labour Party out of coalition with Fianna Fail caused Reynolds' government to collapse.


With the current distribution of seats, no majority government can be formed without the support of Spring's Labour Party. Reynolds has not proposed the calling of new elections.


Labour is hesitant to enter another coalition with Fianna Fail, which it believes has been discredited by Reynolds' controversial appointment of former attorney general Harry Whelehan as president of the High Court, the move that sparked the crisis.


"I would be a very foolish person to call out the options. But continuing with Fianna Fail has been made more difficult," Labor Party chairman Jim Kemmy said Thursday.


Instead, Labour may try to form a new administration with the main opposition party Fine Gael led by John Bruton. Spring must calculate which coalition deal will keep him in the No. 2 position as both foreign minister and deputy prime minister, enabling him to continue leading negotiations with Britain on the way forward in the Northern Ireland peace process.


Britain has indicated it sees Spring as the person who can ensure continuity in the process, which is gradually drawing Northern Ireland's polarized parties toward round-table talks.