Sunday 25 August 2019

Fine Gael TDs discuss calling on Leo Varadkar to seek Frances Fitzgerald's resignation

  • Cabinet meeting underway
  • TDs and senators privately discussing calling on Varadkar to seek Fitzgerald's resignation
  • Opposition TDs say Tanáiste's position remains untenable
  • Independent Alliance may go further than asking Varadkar to avoid an election - sources
Minister Frances Fitzgerald and Leo Varadkar. Photo:Tom Burke
Minister Frances Fitzgerald and Leo Varadkar. Photo:Tom Burke

Kevin Doyle and Niall O'Connor

As the political crisis continues there is a growing disquiet in Fine Gael, with many TDs considering calling on the Taoiseach to urge Ms Fitzgerald to stand aside.

From early this morning, several Fine Gael TDs and senators have been privately discussing calling on Leo Varadkar to seek Frances Fitzgerald's resignation, Independent.ie understands.

For his part the Taoiseach has cancelled his weekly meeting with Fine Gael ministers to go straight to Cabinet to address political crisis.

The Independent Alliance will urge the Taoiseach to avoid an election during crisis meeting this morning.

It had been indicated that Shane Ross and Finian McGrath would not call for  Frances Fitzgerald's resignation – but sources now suggest this could happen.

The Alliance are to raise "deep concerns" about the controversy which is threatening to collapse the Government.

Sources told Independent.ie the Alliance remain of the view that an election should be avoided and will urge Leo Varadkar to do everything in his power to do that.

The Taoiseach and Micheál Martin are due to meet again today in a further round of talks to avert a snap election but a time has not yet been decided.

Independent Alliance. Photo: Steve Humphreys
Independent Alliance. Photo: Steve Humphreys

In public a number of Fine Gael representatives have continued to show support for Ms Fitzgerald.

Minister Simon Harris speaking as he arrived in Government Buildings this morning said the Tanáiste has continued support from the party.

Senator Jerry Buttimer also defended her record as Justice Minister on RTÉ Radio One this morning.

However, Independent.ie understands that a number of senior figures in the party last night predicted that Ms Fitzgerald's ministerial career may come to a swift end, with one minister describing the situation as a mess "from top to bottom".

Simon Harris arriving at Government Buildings this morning (picture: Gerry Mooney)
Simon Harris arriving at Government Buildings this morning (picture: Gerry Mooney)

The Taoiseach has remained firm in his support of the embattled former Justice Minister.

Meanwhile, Fine Gael TD Hildegarde Naughton has questioned whether Frances Fitzgerald can continue on as Tánaiste.

Amid growing disquiet in the party ranks, the Galway representative told Raidió na Gaeltachta it would be “very difficult” for her to remain in office given the latest email revelations.

Meanwhile, Sinn Féin's deputy leader Mary Lou McDonald this morning said she believes the Fine Gael leadership is now in a state of "delusion".

Speaking on RTE Radio One's Morning Ireland, Ms McDonald said she now believes the Taoiseach's judgment is "questionable."

"I think the Fine Gael leadership is in a state of delusion

"The Fine Gael leadership should reflect on the fact that the Dept of Justice under the leadership of the current Tánaiste withheld fairly extensive documentation from the tribunal.

The Email Trail.JPG
 
The Email Trail 2.JPG

"The leadership of Fine Gael should not keep insisting on this strategy of minimising the crisis. It is a matter of great seriousness."

She continued; "I don't think anybody planned a Christmas election - we are all aware of the stresses and strains at this time of year. I have a young family myself, I realise that Christmas is by no stretch of the imagination a good time for an election.

"It was clear last week it was time for Frances Fitzgerald to go. I hope people see it's clear now.

"The judgment of Taoiseach Varadkar is questionable... it shows him to be either very weak or very arrogant."

Meanwhile, Labour's Alan Kelly said it would be "total and utter madness" to have an election now.

"I've come to the conclusion that if we have an election now - the only reason must be that Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil actually WANT an election rather than deal with these issues," he told the programme.

"I was refused answers and because I was refused answers I went back and asked even more questions.

"The Department shut down all my questions.

"As a result of that, and the drip drip drip of information, as we kept probing along with others, eventually we are where we are.

"I have questions for Charlie Flanagan.

"Why did he refuse to cooperate with the democratic process? Why did his department refuse to answer my questions? What is he doing over a department that refused to cooperate fully with a tribunal?

"At the very least he needs to launch an inquiry and ask why these documents hadn't been found.

"The evidence produced in the last 24 hours shows there was an awareness level as to what was going on. This means that "Frances Fitzgerald's position is absolutely untenable.

"The minister needs to resign or the Taoiseach needs to act."

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