Ireland's outgoing Prime Minister, Enda Kenny, resigned Thursday after losing a parliamentary vote to be renamed to his post, following an inconclusive general election in the eurozone nation last month.
After the vote Kenny formally submitted his resignation to the Irish president, but will remain in a caretaker role until the political deadlock is resolved and either he or a new Taoiseach, or prime minister, can be appointed.
"In accordance with the constitution, the government and the Taoiseach will continue to carry on their duties until successors have been appointed," a government statement read.
The February 26 election produced no clear winner but stripped his outgoing coalition of its majority, as voters expressed anger over continued austerity policies despite a return to economic growth.
Kenny's Fine Gael party won 50 seats and nearest rivals Fianna Fail have 44, while anti-austerity Sinn Fein -- long associated with the sectarian conflict in neighbouring Northern Ireland -- got 23.
In his bid to be re-appointed Prime Minister Kenny won the support of 57 deputies -- far short of the required majority of 80 in the 158-seat chamber. He got 94 votes against and five abstentions.
Fianna Fail leader Micheal Martin's nomination for prime minister was also defeated, as was that of Sinn Fein leader Gerry Adams.
Analysts have said the clearest option would be for Fine Gael and Fianna Fail to strike a deal together for a minority government or a coalition, but though the two are both centre-right parties they have deep divisions dating back to the 1920s civil war and any agreement between them would be politically difficult.
Ireland's economy surged by 7.8 percent last year -- by far the biggest growth in the European Union and higher than the 6.9-percent expansion seen in China, official data released earlier on Thursday showed.
"There appears to be no let-up in the Irish economic growth story, with all the signs that the 'Celtic Tiger' has been re-born," said Merrion stockbrokers analyst Alan McQuaid, in reference to Ireland's economic boom preceeding the financial crisis.