Sunday 22 September 2019

'No change' after talks between Taoiseach and Micheál Martin, second meeting planned

  • Micheál Martin and Leo Varadkar to meet again tomorrow
  • Council with responsibility for selecting FG candidates to meet on Saturday
  • Ministers continue public show of support for Frances Fitzgerald
  • 'Nobody wants an election' - Regina Doherty
  • Fianna Fáil say party does not want an election and Tánaiste must resign
  • Independent Alliance call on FG and FF to pull back from 'costly' election
  • Sinn Féin confirm  Mary Lou McDonald will lead their campaign in event of an election
Taoiseach Leo Varadkar has said the country will go to the polls if the gulf between Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil is not resolved
Taoiseach Leo Varadkar has said the country will go to the polls if the gulf between Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil is not resolved Newsdesk Newsdesk

Leo Varadkar and Micheál Martin are to meet again tomorrow following talks in Government buildings this evening.

While both parties are keen to avoid a December election it is understood both retained their position in today's meeting.

Fianna Fáil has repeated calls for Tanáiste Frances Fitzgerald to step down but Fine Gael have made their support clear, with a number of ministers coming out to show their support of her in the past 24 hours.

After a long meeting, sources say there has been "no change" in the positions expressed. The pair are set to meet again tomorrow.

Meanwhile, an emergency meeting of the executive council of Fine Gael has been called for Saturday.

The council is responsible for organising selection conventions to select candidates for elections.

The party has continued to back Ms Fitzgerald despite two motions of no confidence in her.

Fianna Fáil lodged a motion of no confidence in the embattled Tánaiste this morning before Mr Martin said the party "does not want a general election".

The Independent Alliance is also set to meet with Mr Varadkar this evening. Minister Shane Ross has called on Fine Gael and Fianna Fail to pull back from a costly and needless election.

Sinn Féin has selected Mary Lou McDonald as its de facto leader in the event of a general election.

The party’s finance spokesman said he does not envisage a special meeting of the membership being convened as Ms McDonald is already deputy leader of the party.

At last week’s Ard Fheis Gerry Adams announced that he will not contest the next election but would stay on as party President until some time next year.

Mr Doherty also said it was not Sinn Féin’s plan to go after Justice Minister Charlie Flanagan if Ms Fitzgerald resigns.

Government sources believe the Opposition party would simply move to looking for Mr Flanagan to step down over the Garda controversy if they allowed Ms Fitzgerald to fall of her own accord.

As Fine Gael continues to double down on its support, Social Protection Minister Regina Doherty this morning said the controversy is no longer about Ms Fitzgerald.

She claimed she has been told by a senior Fianna Fáil politician that the controversy was no longer about her.

Fianna Fáil leader Micheal Martin Photo: Tony Gavin
Fianna Fáil leader Micheal Martin Photo: Tony Gavin

"I haven’t met anybody who wants an election," she said.

“There’s nobody in their right mind in this country who would think the people of this country want an election or deserve an election.

“We all need to cop onto ourselves and get around the table and sort out this mess once and for all. Everything can be resolved through mediation... Frances Fitzgerald has done nothing wrong."

“I believe the charges that have been made against her by Fianna Fáil and Sinn Fein, they’re trumped up. Actually this is more about Sinn Fein and Fianna Fáil than it is about Frances Fitzgerald.

“A senior Fianna Fáil politician told me this week it stopped being about Frances Fitzgerald last week. The country does not deserve an election. We do not need one, so let’s make sure we don’t have one.”

Speaking on RTÉ’s 'Today with Séan O’Rourke' earlier today, Mr Martin said his party is preparing for an immediate election before Christmas, adding that he does not have confidence in Ms Fitzgerald.

“Do you not think there is something fundamentally wrong with the inability to tell a story straight?”

Mr Martin said his patience has now been stretched to the limit and that Sgt McCabe was mistreated.

“It is about something that is core to every citizen in this country. The rights of citizens must be protected,” the Cork South Central TD said.

Mr Martin also ruled out the prospect of entering government with Sinn Féin. And he denied that his own position will be in jeopardy if he fails to emerge from the election with the largest number of Dáil seats.

Earlier today, Foreign Affairs Minister Simon Coveney said there is "no reason for Frances Fitzgerald to resign" and accused Sinn Féin and Fianna Fáil of "trying to damage the government" by lodging the motion.

Speaking to RTÉ's Morning Ireland, Minister Coveney hit out at Fianna Fáil and accused them of trying to bring down the government for "political party reasons".

"What we are dealing with today is Fianna Fáil insisting on moving a motion of no confidence in a Tánaiste who is being accused of not protecting whistleblowers on the basis of facts that have not been established by a tribunal. We need to call this for what it is. This is reckless politics that is politically opportunistic to damage a Taoiseach who is doing a really good job and to a damage a government that is trying to move forward," he said.

The Fine Gael politician also insisted Leo Varadkar is "not going to abandon his Tánaiste".

"Leo Varadkar is not going to ask her to resign on the back of a case which Fianna Fáil and Sinn Féin have made. We don't think this even stands up. We think it is a case built on sand.

"...This is because the Tánaiste didn't act on an email two years ago, despite the email making clear she had no business acting on it and subsequently we have set up a full tribunal to establish the facts. They don't want to wait for due process, instead they want to take a political opportunity to damage the Tánaiste and the government in a time when it is not in the national interest to do so."

Minister Coveney, who was involved in drafting the confidence and supply agreement, said he doesn't see how the government can function if the motion of no confidence is lodged.

"You can't have the main opposition deciding who should be a minister and who shouldn't and have a credible government," he said.

"Fianna Fáil are saying she should have acted on an email two years ago despite being told clearly she should not. She has since got advice from the Attorney General that backs this up."

Finance Minister Paschal Donohoe said Ms Fitzgerald “is a politician whose career has been marked and defined by a commitment to supporting and protecting those who need support and protection”.

“I have seen her respond back to that as Minister for Children and I saw her respond back to that as Minister for Justice.”

Online Editors

Today's news headlines, directly to your inbox every morning.

Also in this section