IRISH politics have plunged into uncertainty following the resignation of Prime Minister Albert Reynolds yesterday.
But leading figures in Northern Ireland say the crisis will leave the peace process in the province mainly unscathed.
Mr. Reynolds helped forge last year's Downing Street Declaration, which set a framework for Northern Ireland talks that are now set to begin by Christmas.
But Foreign Minister and Deputy Prime Minister Dick Spring also took part in shaping the peace plan, and British officials say his presence in any government would help to ensure the continuity of the peace process.
Michael Ancram, the Northern Ireland political development minister, pledged that Britain would ``maintain the momentum of the search for a lasting peace.''
Gerry Adams, president of Sinn Fein, the Irish Republican Army's political wing, said Reynolds's resignation was ``a matter of concern,'' but the quest for peace was ``bigger than any one politician.''
Reynolds quit yesterday after several days of turmoil centered on charges that he had misled the Dail (the lower chamber in Parliament) about the actions of his attorney general in an extradition case.
His resignation, submitted to President Mary Robinson ahead of a no-confidence vote in the Dail, means either that the country will face a general election or that a new coalition under a different prime minister will be forge. For now, Reynolds will continue as head of a caretaker administration.
Reynolds's position as prime minister became untenable Wednesday night when Deputy Prime Minister Spring said he was taking his Labour Party out of the ruling coalition.
Reynolds's Republican Party and Labour have shared power since early last year. Although both parties were able to cooperate to end the war in Northern Ireland, squabbles over domestic issues between Reynolds's more conservative party and Spring's left-leaning Labour Party brought some tension to the coalition.
In a resignation speech to the Dail yesterday, Reynolds said he was stepping down to ``ensure the continuation of the Northern Ireland peace process''.