Ireland’s deputy prime minister Frances Fitzgerald has resigned – a move which means a snap election has been narrowly avoided.
A no-confidence motion in Mrs Fitzgerald had been due to be debated in the Irish parliament on Tuesday evening.
If the government had lost the vote, its supply-and-confidence arrangement would have collapsed.
But her resignation removed the need for the vote and any threat that Irish Prime Minister Leo Varadkar would have to call fresh elections.
The political instability had threatened to affect the Brexit process, with the future of the Irish border one of the main stumbling blocks in the ongoing negotiations.
Mrs Fitzgerald released a statement saying: “I believe it is necessary to take this decision to avoid an unwelcome and potentially destabilising general election at this historically critical time.
“I would like to thank the Taoiseach. I will always be grateful… for (him) giving me the opportunity to serve in a Government that is making a real difference in people’s lives at a critical time in our history.
“I decided that my continuation in office risks destabilising that good work, and so I have decided to step down so that this work may continue and the country can be spared an unnecessary election.
“It will also allow me to vindicate my good name… without causing any further distraction to the work of the Government.”
Mr Varadkar attended parliament in Dublin and thanked Mrs Fitzgerald for her work.
He said: “Over the next few weeks and months, the government will need to focus on the Brexit negotiations, both phase one and phase two.
“The work of the government and the parliament must not be interrupted during this important period.
“So, it is with deep regret that I have accepted her resignation.”
The issue that led to Mrs Fitzgerald’s resignation was over claims she was aware of a campaign to smear a whistleblowing police officer.
Sergeant Maurice McCabe raised concerns about police corruption but then found himself targeted by his own colleagues and the fallout has been going on for more than a decade.
There were calls for Mrs Fitzgerald to resign or be sacked over a series of emails about Sgt McCabe dating back to 2015 when she was the justice secretary.
Mr Varadkar told parliament that an inquiry was under way to determine who knew what about the case and he was certain that Mrs Fitzgerald will “have her good name vindicated”.
The threat of an election caused concern about Brexit on both sites of the Irish Sea because the future of the Irish border after the UK leaves the bloc is likely to be raised by Ireland at a EU Council summit in December.
Mr Varadkar has threatened to block the Brexit negotiations progressing if he does not have sufficient assurances about the future of the border between Ireland and Northern Ireland.
An Irish government that had to win an election may have found it more difficult to fully engage in talks.
Agreement on the border is one of three issues that has to be resolved before the EU has said it is prepared for talks to move on to trade.