Thursday 22 August 2019

'We are doing everything we can, we are trying to find a middle way' - Taoiseach

  • Leo Varadkar: 'We are not trying to protect anyone'
  • Minister continue offensive on the airwaves as Opposition TDs dig in
  • Deadline to avert election looms
  • Fourth round of crunch talks to take place this evening
Minister Frances Fitzgerald and Leo Varadkar. Photo:Tom Burke
Minister Frances Fitzgerald and Leo Varadkar. Photo:Tom Burke

Ralph Riegel

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar has reiterated his intention for Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil to reach a resolution and avoid a general election before Christmas.

The Taoiseach today bluntly accused Sinn Fein of being the only Irish political party that wanted a pre-Christmas election for their own party ends.

Mr Varadkar was speaking as attended the Requiem Mass of former Fine Gael TD, MEP and Minister Donal Creed (93) in Cork.

Mr Creed is the father of Agriculture Minister Michael Creed TD.

As he left St Colman's Church in Macroom, Mr Varadkar said everything possible was being done to avoid a second election in Ireland in less than two years.

"We don't have resolution at this stage," he said.

Minister Frances Fitzgerald and Leo Varadkar. Photo:Tom Burke
Minister Frances Fitzgerald and Leo Varadkar. Photo:Tom Burke

"But I will be meeting with Micheal Martin later this afternoon or this evening.

"I think it is fair to say that neither Fianna Fáil nor Fine Gael want an election.

"It seems Sinn Fein are the only party that wants that.

"We are trying to find a middle way that allows the Government to continue - to continue with the important work that we are doing particularly in relation to Brexit...Ensuring that we have necessary legislation."

The Fine Gael leader's comments come amid a clear cooling of attitudes in both camps today about the prospect of an election.

Fianna Fáil election organisers have been told this morning by party headquarters to ease off on election planning, Independent.ie understands.

However, Mr Varadkar refused to say whether he was confident or hopeful an election could be avoided.

"We are doing everything we can," he said.

"As I always said, and as I said in the Dail last week, I have nothing to hide, Fine Gael has nothing to hide nor does the Government.

"We are not trying to protect anyone.

"We just want to make sure that there is due process and that people are treated fairly.

"Certainly I don't want there to be an election. I don't think it would change anything or achieve anything, particularly at such an important time for the country.

"So we will meet with Micheal Martin this evening and I will do everything I can to come to a resolution.

"But obviously that must involve due process."

Mr Varadkar also stressed that nothing had changed in terms of Fine Gael's staunch support for embattled Tanaiste Frances Fitzgerald.

When me asked if he supported her, he replied: "Yes, absolutely."

Earlier Ministers Simon Coveney and Paschal Donohoe both reiterated their support of Ms Fitzgerald in separate broadcast interviews and again repeated their desire for Ireland to avoid a snap election ahead of crucial Brexit negotiations next month.

Junior Housing Minister Damien English said he is ptimistic Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael will work out a compromise to avoid a Christmas election. 

He said: "I think there's an opportunity today, both the Taoiseach Leo Varadkar and leader of Fianna Fáil Micheál Martin, have been working hard over the weekend.

"They've had a couple of meetings each day, for the past couple of days," he told Independent.ie.

"Genuinely both of them want to avoid an election, because it's very clear from talking to anybody in any sector, no matter who or what they support, don't want an election." 

However, members of the Opposition including Sinn Féin's Mary Lou McDonald and Labour's Brendan Howlin, also took to the airwaves today to underline their position that Ms Fitzgerald should step aside.

Meanwhile, a Fianna Fáil TD said the party’s position remains clear and that Ms Fitzgerald must step aside.

Galway East deputy Anne Rabbitte told Independent.ie that while she is not seeking a “head on a plate”, her party will not tolerate her remaining in her post.

“I hope common sense will prevail and Fine Gael puts country first and not the party,” Ms Rabbitte said.

“At the same time, I'm not looking for any head on a plate. I'm looking for her to stand aside until that part is addressed in detail,” she added,

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