Saturday 17 August 2019

Country on brink of General Election as Taoiseach set to tell TDs he is backing embattled Tánaiste

Tánaiste Frances Fitzgerald
Tánaiste Frances Fitzgerald
Kevin Doyle

Kevin Doyle

The country is on the verge of a General Election after Fianna Fáil expressed no confidence in Tánaiste Frances Fitzgerald.

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar told an emergency meeting of Fine Gael TDs and senators in Leinster House tonight that he will not allow the Tánaiste to be "thrown under the bus" on a trumped up charge.

He said the Government would try to avoid an election and also pointed out that while Health Minister Micheál Martin once failed to recall an email, a letter and two conversations relating a nursing home controversy.

The Fine Gael parliamentary party then unanimously passed a motion to stand behind Tánaiste Frances Fitzgerald.

In addition to having the full support of her party, it is understood that Ms Fitzgerald has no intention of resigning.

Speaking on RTE Nine O'Clock News Minister for Foreign Affairs, Simon Coveney, confirmed the party is backing the Tanaiste.

"We are still not even fully sure what she is being accused of," he said, adding "what this seems to be about is Fianna Fáil and Sinn Féin competing with each other politically.

Housing Minister Eoghan Murphy, who is appearing on tonight's Prime Time, has said that the Tánaiste "acted appropriately" at all times.

The TD launched a strident defence of his party colleague on the programme.

He defended her "impeccable record" of trying to protect whistleblowers.

If Mr Varadkar ultimately decides to back his embattled deputy it will almost certainly lead to an election in the coming weeks, something his deputy leader said tonight the party does not want.

Under the ‘confidence and supply’ agreement between Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil, the Opposition party is expected to abstain on votes of no confidence in ministers.

However, Fianna Fáil’s has tonight drawn up a motion of no confidence in Ms Fitzgerald. It reads: That Dáil Éireann no longer has confidence in the Tánaiste Frances Fitzgerald TD.

The row centres on an email from May 2015 which outlined how legal teams for Garda Commissioner Noirin O’Sullivan and whistleblower Maurice McCabe clashed at the inquiry. Ms Fitzgerald says she doesn’t remember the email and that in any event she could not have legally intervened.

But Mr O’Callaghan said: “She should go.” Asked on RTÉ’s Six One if his party was prepared for an election, he said that was not necessary but if Ms Fitzgerald refused to step aside then "so be it".

TD Thomas Byrne said tonight that the party is "convinced" they are "doing the right thing".

A spokesperson for the Independent Alliance members of Government said they still retain confidence in Ms Fitzgerald.

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