Fine Gael TD Peter Fitzpatrick has resigned from the party and intends to run in the next election as an independent candidate.
The departure of the Louth TD reduces the minority Government’s already slim numbers in the Dáil just one week before the Budget.
In a statement the TD for Louth said that over the last 15 months his views had not been listened to and he felt isolated within Fine Gael.
Press release pic.twitter.com/7NEIZ0ZKXo— Peter Fitzpatrick (@PFitzpatrickTD) October 1, 2018
Mr Fitzpatrick was strongly opposed to repealing the Eighth Amendment of the Constitution which was strongly backed by the party’s senior figures.
First elected in 2011, the former Louth county football manager did not put himself forward for election at the Fine Gael Louth Constituency selection convention last week.
There, Fergus O’Dowd and Dundalk-based councillor John McGahon were selected to run for the party in Louth.
Senior party figures last night said Mr Fitzpatrick’s decision was somewhat unexpected but insisted the Government still has the required support for key Dáil votes.
It is understood that Mr Fitzpatrick had indicated to the Taoiseach some time ago that he would remain a Fine Gael TD for the duration of this Government.
The Confidence and Supply Agreement is predicated on the Government having the support of 57 TDs.
Initially, this included 50 Fine Gael TDs, the five Independent Alliance TDs and Independents Katherine Zappone and Denis Naughten.
Sean Canney has since left the Independent Alliance but continues to support the Government on an informal basis.
Independent Tipperary TD Michael Lowry also supports the Government in Finance and Confidence votes.
His vote could now be crucial to the passage of the budget.
Last week, Independent Galway West TD Noel Grealish also supported the Government in the no confidence motion in Minister for Housing Eoghan Murphy.
Taoiseach Leo Varadkar has said tonight that he was sorry to hear Mr Fitzpatrick had resigned from the party.
Mr Varadkar said that he had known the Louth TD was unhappy for some time and was a strong opponent of holding a referendum on the Eighth Amendment.
He said: "I spoke to Peter a few weeks ago when he decided not to seek a nomination to contest the next General Election as a Fine Gael candidate.
"At the time he confirmed that he would continue to sit, act and vote as a Fine Gael TD until the end of his mandate. I regret that he has since changed his mind."