Last-ditch efforts to avert general election today ahead of no confidence motion in Tánaiste

Frances Fitzgerald has again defended her approach in the wake of newly-released emails

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Frances Fitzgerald and Leo Varadkar. Photo: Leah Farrell/RollingNews.ie

6:54 28 Nov 2017 Stephen McNeice 06:54 Tuesday 28 November 2017

Updated 10.00 am

The Taoiseach and Fianna Fáil leader meet again this morning in a last-ditch attempt to avert a snap general election.

It emerged yesterday that Tánaiste and then justice minister Frances Fitzgerald received additional emails detailing the proposed "aggressive" Garda legal strategy against whistleblower Maurice McCabe.

Fianna Fáil’s motion of no confidence in the Tánaiste is due to be debated tonight - but the opposition party says her resignation would negate this.

A vote in favour of a no confidence motion, meanwhile, would see the collapse of the confidence & supply agreement between Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil - a development that would effectively force a general election.

The Tánaiste, however, has again appeared to resist calls to resign.

She tweeted to say that as Justice Minister she could not interfere with the O'Higgins Commission - adding that the Disclosures Tribunal "will objectively judge the appropriateness" of her conduct.

Previously, Minister Fitzgerald had said she did not recall being notified about the legal strategy in the summer of 2015.

The Taoiseach, Tánaiste and other ministers have arrived at Leinster House ahead of this morning's Cabinet meeting.

Health Minister Simon Harris, meanwhile, said the Tánaiste should 'certainly not' resign.

He added: "This country doesn't need a general election. I think everybody in Irish politics needs to step back from the brink - it's a day for cool heads, it's a day for calm reflection."

Grave situation

Fine Gael's partners in Government, the Independent Alliance have described the situation as grave - although they do not want a Christmas election.

On his way into Government buildings, the Minister for Transport Shane Ross said the group will make their views clear at the Cabinet meeting this morning.

Meanwhile, Minister Fitzgerald's predecessor as Tánaiste, Joan Burton, called on her to do the right thing:

"I am sure that she and her family and her closest personal advisors are examining the situation," she said.

"I think what they have to do is to look at what is the best interest and need and requirement of the people of this country."

Talks

This morning's meeting between Micheál Martin and Leo Varadkar comes following a number of meetings between the two men in recent days.

A spokesperson for the Taoiseach said there was serious engagement on both sides yesterday evening, with all remaining keen to avoid an election in the interest of the country.

Other opposition parties, meanwhile, continued their criticism of the Tánaiste in the wake of the newly-released documents.

Sinn Féin justice spokesperson Donnchadh Ó Laoghaire argued: “These documents are further evidence of the Tánaiste’s failings in addressing very serious issue, and her failure to protect Maurice McCabe from an appalling smear.

“The case for the defence for Tánaiste Frances Fitzgerald has been unravelling for days. It has now collapsed."

Social Democrats co-leader Róisín Shortall said that the Tánaiste's position is untenable in the wake of the latest developments.

Deputy Shortall observed: “How can the Tánaiste continue to credibly maintain that she wasn’t aware of the legal strategy, despite her officials and her special advisers being included in the email chain released tonight?"

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