Crisis talks continue in bid to avert snap general election

Meetings over the weekend have been described as productive but sensitive

Crisis talks continue in bid to avert snap general election

File picture: Ballot boxes have arrived at polling stations

Updated: 13.55

Last minute talks to avert a winter election are taking place between the Taoiseach Leo Varadkar and Fianna Fáil leader Micheal Martin later.

A Fine Gael Minister says there is nothing that cannot be solved in the next 24 hours to avoid a Christmas election.

It comes as talks aimed at averting a snap general election over the garda whistleblower controversy are continuing.

Meetings between the two leaders over the weekend were described as productive but also sensitive, as both sides stick to their respective lines that the Tánaiste Frances Fitzgerald must stay, or go.

Yesterday it emerged that the Department of Justice had received a second briefing, this time from the then-Garda Commissioner Noirin O’Sullivan, regarding her legal strategy to question the motivation of Sergeant Maurice McCabe.

But in this instance, Frances Fitzgerald was not informed.

Fianna Fáil's motion of no confidence is scheduled for Tuesday night - and unless a solution can be found before then, a Christmas election is inevitable.

On Saturday night, Fianna Fáil officials set about examining a batch of documents handed over by the Department of Justice following crisis talks between the party leaders.

The documents were prepared following a parliamentary question brought forward by Labour's Alan Kelly. and reportedly provide an update on records relating to the McCabe controversy at the Department of Justice.

Leo Varadkar | File photo

They have not been made public - but are understood to detail a trawl of records ordered by the Taoiseach.

Finance Minister Paschal Donohoe says both sides need to do all they can to stop an election.

"It is even more apparent now that the country is facing so many challenges, and indeed so many opportunities, that would need to be dealt with across the month of December and into January.

"And for all of those reasons it is imperative that we do all we can to ensure an election doesn't happen - but of course Fianna Fáil need to do their bit too".

Minister Regina Doherty told Newstalk Breakfast earlier she is hopeful of a deal.

"What we're trying to do at the moment - the recourse of the conversation between Leo Varadkar and Michael Martin over the weekend - are to stop the pending election.

"You can't come across anybody who wants it - with the exception of Sinn Féin - who'd take election any day of the week just because they obviously feel that they would be in a better position after the election than they would be heretofore.

"What's clear to me is that the country wouldn't be in any different of a position after an election than it is today - except our hands at the negotiating table with Michael Barnier would be weakened, the negotiations and the re-implementation of Stormont would be damaged."

"I'm always optimistic: there's nothing that can't be solved in the next 24 hours so that we don't need to have an election.

"And I wish the two gentlemen the best of luck, honest to God".

Michael Martin | File photo

Outgoing Sinn Féin President Gerry Adams says revelations about the former Garda Commissioner's call to department officials while Ms Fitzgerald was Minister for Justice raises even more questions.

"All of that was going on and it was clearly part of what the former Garda Commissioners were involved in - that was clearly at the hearts of their legal strategy.

"And the other smears that were going out across the cplace to anyone who would listen to them.

"It's not fair, it's not right this has been going on for years and years add years and years".

"Somebody has to be held to account and, unfortunately, it happens to be Frances Fitzgerald".

Meanwhile, a Red C poll indicates there would be very little change if a snap election is called.

The Sunday Business Post poll was conducted last week during the current crisis - and shows Fine Gael is down two points on 27% while Fianna Fáil is up one to 26%.

"What this poll suggests is they may end up with the same result, after three weeks of campaigning, as they have at the moment," the paper's political editor, Michael Brennan, said.

"I think the poll is basically a warning to Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael that another general election might not bring them anything new".

Additional reporting: Juliette Gash and Michael Staines