The Irish Government is on the brink of collapse after two Sligo/Leitrim politicians resigned from the Government.

Fianna Fail representatives Eamon Scanlan and Jimmy Devins both resigned in protest after cancer services in Sligo were axed.

Their resignation means that the ruling Fianna Fail/Greens/Independents coalition now holds 82 seats - the same number as the opposition.

Taoiseach (Prime Minister) Brian Cowen said he was obviously disappointed but hoped the two would support the government in this difficult time.

“In that capacity I would hope and expect, in the current economic circumstances, they will be in a position to continue to support the Government in the many other important and necessary decisions which will have to be taken in the months and years ahead,” he said.

However, the math of the Irish Dail (Parliament) means that the Government has to win every vote taken in the chamber or be forced to call a general election.

For instance, a budget vote in December would automatically trigger a general election if the Government loses the vote.

Given Ireland's tough economy and the expected massive cutbacks in the Budget it is entirely possible that the Government will in fact lose the vote.