'Let's all calm down a bit': Varadkar not seeking Tánaiste's resignation

'Let's all calm down a bit': Varadkar not seeking Tánaiste's resignation


  • Taoiseach Leo Varadkar and Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin will meet tomorrow in effort to avoid election.
  • Varadkar claims he is not expecting Tánaiste Frances Fitzgerald's resignation.
  • Fianna Fáil has tabled a motion of no confidence in Frances Fitzgerald
  • Ministers Simon Coveney and Regina Doherty said tabling the motion would end the confidence and supply agreement.
  • Frances Fitzgerald 'determined to carry on because she did the right thing': Minister of State, John Paul Phelan
  • Four Ministers of State have come out strongly in support of the Tánaiste.
  • General election now seems inevitable with most commentators saying it will happen before Christmas
  • Labour have warned that nurses, gardaí and pensioners will not get pay increases in event of snap election
  • Information note:

    A general election must be held within 30 days of the dissolution of the Dáil. Procedurally, the Clerk of the Dáil issues a writ to the returning officer in each constituency instructing them to hold an election.

    The Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government names the polling day which must be between the 18th and 25th day (excluding Good Friday, Sundays and public holidays) after the issue of the writ.

Update 6.50pm: Taoiseach Leo Varadkar has said he believes there is still a chance to avoid a Christmas election and is not expecting the Tánaiste's resignation.

He told RTÉ News he had a "good meeting" with Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin and had a chance to "clear the air".

'Let's all calm down a bit': Varadkar not seeking Tánaiste's resignation

"I don't want there to be a General Election and I don't believe Micheál Martin wants one either, by the way," he added.

He defended Frances Fitzgerald and called for the opposition to calm down.

"I don't believe the decapitation of the Tánaiste on trumped-up charges is fair," he said.

"Let's all calm down a bit and pause for reflection, withdraw these [no confidence] motions and allow the Charleton Tribunal to resume in January," he added.

'Let's all calm down a bit': Varadkar not seeking Tánaiste's resignation

He said anyone who has evidence against Gardaí or the Tánaiste can do so at the Disclosures Tribunal.

The next public hearings of the Disclosures Tribunal will be in January.

It will continue with its next phase of hearings focused on garda whistleblower Maurice McCabe.

Mr Varadkar repeatedly said he believed in "truth, justice and fairness".

He said he was the Minister who originally stood up for Maurice McCabe.

"A terrible injustice was down to Maurice McCabe. He wasn't listened to and he wasn't given a fair trial or hearing. Why should we compound that now by doing the same thing to the Tánaiste?" he said.

"You don't execute someone who is trying to find out the facts."

He said he was not seeking Frances Fitzgerald's resignation and did not believe she would hand it in.

"I don't believe that is going to arise. She hasn't done anything wrong in my view."

"I don't know if it is the wishes of the country to have an execution without trial. I think Irish people deep down believe in justice, fair play and a fair hearing and not kangaroo courts," he said.

He said he "really hoped" there would not be a Christmas election but if there was it would be the responsibility of the opposition.

'Let's all calm down a bit': Varadkar not seeking Tánaiste's resignation

"I will do my best over the weekend to work with leader of Fianna Fáil to find means where we can all step back a bit and deal with these matters in the right way," he said.

However, he said if there was an election it would be better to have it before Christmas.

Update 5.49pm: Varadkar and Martin to continue talks

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar is to continue talks with Fianna Fáil in a bid to avoid a snap election.

Mr Varadkar met Micheál Martin for under an hour in Government Buildings in Dublin amid a deepening row over attempts to have a senior minister sacked.

Mr Martin, the leader of the party keeping the Taoiseach's Fine Gael Government alive through an 18-month-old confidence and supply agreement, has refused to budge on a motion of no confidence in Tánaiste Frances Fitzgerald.

It is scheduled for next Tuesday and was called over the handling of a 2015 email that revealed attempts to discredit a Garda whistleblower.

But the threat of an election has caused turmoil in government and political circles, with the biggest fear it would be fought in the teeth of Brexit negotiations which could determine the future of the Irish border.

A Fianna Fáil spokesman said the discussions between the Taoiseach and Mr Martin would continue.

"They had an open and frank discussion. Both agreed that an election is not needed now and they agreed to further engagement over the weekend," he said.

Update 5.01pm: Varadkar and Martin to meet again tomorrow

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar and Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin have agreed to meet again following talks earlier this evening.

RTÉ is reporting that the party leaders have agreed to further contacts after a lengthy meeting.

It is reported that the Tánasite was not present at the meeting despite being in Government Buildings while the meeting was underway.

Update 4.11pm: Independent Alliance urge FG and FF to 'step back from the brink'

The Independent Alliance has told Leo Varadkar and Micheal Martin to "swallow some pride" and not bring the Government down by causing "a completely needless election" over "a spat about an e-mail", writes Fiachra Ó Cionnaith

Transport Minister Shane Ross insisted a solution must be found "as a matter of urgency" as he said the Alliance backs Frances Fitzgerald "100%" but denied he is in effect telling Fianna Fáil to back down.

Speaking to reporters at Leinster House alongside Alliance colleagues Finian McGrath, Kevin 'Boxer' Moran, Sean Canney and John Halligan, Mr Ross said the group is "appealing to Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil to step back from the brink".

Warning the country risks being "paralysed" by a caretaker Government for weeks and unable to tackle the Brexit, health and housing crises, Mr Ross said he and his colleagues are disappointed in the "cavalier" approach taken by Mr Varadkar and Mr Martin.

However, despite insisting the Alliance remains "unambigous" in its "100% support" for Ms Fitzgerald as "we certainly don't want one [an election] over a spat about an e-mail, it would be absurd", Mr Ross denied he is effectively telling Mr Martin to back down.

"No, I'm not saying that. I'm saying they should come to a decision. This isn't about backing down, this is about the interests of the country and sparing everybody a completely needless election.

"If it means someone will have to swallow some pride, well then that's what they have to do," he said.

The view was shared by the four other Alliance TDs, who are due to meet Mr Varadkar at 7.30pm on Friday evening.

Minister of state for skills John Halligan said it would be wrong to bring the Government down "over an e-mail", while Sean Canney said TDs should "come out of the bubble and see what the people of Ireland actually want".

Minister of state for disabilities Finian McGrath - who introduced himself as "the Independent TD for Dublin Bay North" in a nod to the risk of an election - said "we want to get on with our job" while Mr Ross denied the Alliance wants to avoid an election due to fears they would be wiped out.

Update 3.36pm: Varadkar and Martin in last ditch effort to avoid Christmas election

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar and Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin are meeting his evening after Fianna Fáil tabled a motion of no confidence in Tánaiste Frances Fitzgerald.

'Let's all calm down a bit': Varadkar not seeking Tánaiste's resignation

The Social Protection Minister said politicians need to "cop on" and "sort this mess out" before there is a general election.

A standoff has emerged between Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael over the Tánaiste’s handling of the Maurice McCabe controversy, but it is understood the party leaders will meet today.

Fianna Fáil has tabled a motion of no confidence in Frances Fitzgerald but said the issue could be resolved if she resigns.

Minister Regina Doherty says nobody wants to go to the polls;

"There's nobody in their right mind in this country that would want or think that people want an election or deserve an election," she said.

"We all need to cop on to ourselves and go back to the table and sort this mess out once and for all," she added.

'Let's all calm down a bit': Varadkar not seeking Tánaiste's resignation

Dublin TD Noel Rock says the Dail should sit through the weekend to pass vital legislation including increases to social welfare payments.

"In the event that an election does happen before Christmas or early January, we have a lot of vital legislation that we need to pass," he said.

"I think it is quite clear that politicians, no matter what side you're on, need to roll up our sleeves, sit over the weekend, sit on Monday, pass this legislation and get work done on behalf of people," he said.

"That needs to be done this week and it can be done this week regardless of what happens with an election."

'Let's all calm down a bit': Varadkar not seeking Tánaiste's resignation

Both Fianna Fáil and Sinn Féin say if Frances Fitzgerald resigns, an immediate General Election can be averted.

Pearse Doherty said the Deputy Leader of Sinn Fein will lead the party into the election whenever it happens;

"May Lou McDonald will lead our campaign in an election - if there is to be election," he said.

"That is a decision for Leo Varadkar. What we have very clearly is a motion of no confidence in the Tánaiste. We want to see the Tánaiste go and it is up to Leo now if he wants to walk this state into a General Election," he said.

Update 2.20pm: Howlin: Nurses, gardaí and pensioners won't get pay increases in event of snap election

The Labour party have warned that nurses, gardai and pensioners among others will not get pay increases if there is a snap general election, writes Juno McEnroe

Party leader Brendan Howlin, at a press conference today, also though did not rule out the party going back into government after any vote.

The comments comes as the country hurtles towards a snap election amid the fallout over the government's mishandling of the Maurice McCabe email saga.

Fianna Fail are going ahead with a motion of no confidence in Tanaiste Frances Fitzgerald, saying she failed to protect the garda whistleblower. If she does not resign, they will trigger the motion on Tuesday.

Labour though are warning that pending legislation and Dail agreement is needed on a number of pay related matters, including the Social Welfare Bill and the new pay deal with public servants.

Nurses, gardai and public servants would not get pay increases and welfare changes would be frozen, warned Mr Howlin, a former public expenditure minister. He warned of the Brexit summit in Brussels next month, a crucial meeting which may shed light on whether there will be a hard border with the North or not.

“My judgement remains that there is still an opportunity for Fine Gael to reflect on this situation over the weekend. It is clear now that a majority of Dail Eireann does not have confidence in the Tanaiste. If the Tanaiste resigns, the threat of an immediate election could pass.”

Mr Howlin also did not rule out Labour going into government with any party after an election.

'Let's all calm down a bit': Varadkar not seeking Tánaiste's resignation

Update 1.40pm: The office of the Department of Justice secretary general Noel Waters - who announced his retirement last week - was also told of the garda legal team strategy to discredit Maurice McCabe on May 15, 2015, writes Fiachra Ó Cionnaith, Political Correspondent

An unredacted version of the e-mail published by Ms Fitzgerald on Tuesday obtained by www.broadsheet.ie on Friday afternoon shows Mr Waters' office was included in the e-mail when it was sent to the then justice minister two years ago.

The e-mail states that the secretary general's office was included in the e-mail chain.

It also names four other senior Department of Justice officials who were also informed at the same time.

Mr Waters announced his retirement from his role as Department of Justice secretary general last week, during the same phone call in which he informed current Justice Minister Charlie Flanagan of the existence of the previously forgotten May 15, 2015, e-mail.

Update 1.10pm: Four Fine Gael ministers of state have come out strongly in support of Tánaiste Frances Fitzgerald and said that she should not resign despite the growing likelihood of a general election should she remain in office, writes Conor Kane.

Minister of State Michael D’Arcy accused Sinn Fein of “political terrorism” and Fianna Fáil of “political vandalism” while Minister of State Pat Breen said the current controversy represents “politics at its lowest ebb” and appealed to the opposition to pull back from triggering an election.

Frances Fitzgerald
Frances Fitzgerald

They and colleagues were speaking in Kilkenny at separate events, where financial services group Carne announced the creation of 50 new jobs and Veterinary Ireland held their annual conference.

Minister of State for housing, and local TD, John Paul Phelan said TDs might go home for the weekend and find the general public “not as exercised” about the email controversy as Leinster House. “Some of them might pull back from the precipice.”

Whether or not an election is caused depends on discussions between taoiseach Leo Varadkar and Fianna Fáil leader Micheal Martin, he said. “Frances Fitzgerald herself is determined to carry on because she did the right thing. It seems ironic, and a slightly crazy situation, where an election could happen over an email that instructed that no action should be taken, and no action was taken”.

Asked if the Tánaiste should resign, Mr Phelan said: “No, definitely not. If the government, any government, allows a minister to be kind of humanly sacrificed just to keep itself alive, that’s not democracy and the government can’t have that threat hanging over its head. Who’s going to be next? She hasn’t done anything wrong.”

He said that if Fianna Fáil “break the confidence and supply arrangement” in a vote of no confidence next week, “there will be an election before Christmas”.

Minister of State at the Department of Agriculture, Andrew Doyle, said the advice given in the email to Frances Fitzgerald in 2005, “was it’s not appropriate to intervene. Had she intervened, people would be saying why did she intervene even though the advice was not to, so it’s sort of damned if you do and damned if you don’t.”

He said he has full confidence in the Tánaiste and it should be up to the Charleton Inquiry to deal with the policing issues. Asked if he thinks there will be an election in the coming weeks, Mr Doyle said: “It’s looking like it.” Minister of State at the Department of Finance, Michael D’Arcy, also said an election is likely. “I think so, before Christmas.”

He also offered his support to Frances Fitzgerald: “The Tánaiste has done nothing wrong. We have a new Taoiseach, Leo Varadkar. He doesn’t operate in the way things have always operated in the past. In the past, Frances Fitzgerald would have been forced to resign, by somebody. That’s not going to be the case and Fine Gael support their Tánaiste because she’s done nothing wrong. I describe this as political terrorism by Sinn Fein and what they have done is stampeded Fianna Fáil into political vandalism.”

'Let's all calm down a bit': Varadkar not seeking Tánaiste's resignation

The country doesn’t need an election now, particularly ahead of “crucial Brexit talks,” he said. “We don’t, but I’m satisfied we’re on an election footing. The only way I can see an election not happening is if Fianna Fáil don’t go ahead with their motion. If Fianna Fáil put down their motion, as far as I’m concerned they’ve broken the confidence and supply arrangement and I think an election would be required one way or another.”

The Tánaiste was originally scheduled to make the Carne jobs announcement in Kilkenny before events overtook her, and her place was taken by Minister of State at her department, Pat Breen, who said she has “done nothing wrong and obviously she wants to be on top of things to ensure that her good name is cleared in this because she’s been accused of something she didn’t do and has acted properly at all times”.

Pat Breen
Pat Breen

The opposition have “backed themselves into a corner and are out to get the Tánaiste’s head,” he said.

“It’s a populist move, a wrong move and not in the interests of the country... The Taoiseach doesn’t want an election, I don’t want an election, the people out there don’t want an election so it’s an unnecessary election if it happens. So I would hope that common sense would prevail here and that Micheál Martin would talk to the Taoiseach over the weekend and taken the issue of national importance first and the country first.”

He described the current situation as “politics at its lowest ebb” and said that while an election can’t be ruled out, “two days is a long time in politics”.

Update 12.55pm: Finance Minister Paschal Donohoe says Fianna Fáil is trying to advance its own causes at a time when the country does not need an election.

"In trying to undermine or challenge the work of brave people like Maurice McCabe shows the level to which they're sinking to advance their own political agenda.

"...I know the challenges that are imminent. I know the choices that our country will have to make soon, regarding how we respond to the challenge of Brexit."

Update 11.30am: Micheál Martin: No election if Fitzgerald quits

Micheál Martin has ruled out a coalition with Sinn Féin after a General Election.

An election seems certain after Fianna Fáil tabled a motion of no confidence in Frances Fitzgerald this morning, despite warnings from Fine Gael that to do so would breach the confidence and supply agreement that supports the Government.

Mr Martin said core issues that threatened the cohesion of the Government overrode a clause in the agreement saying Fianna Fáil would not support no-confidence motions in any Minister.

On a potential coalition with Sinn Féin, he told RTE's Today With Séan O'Rourke: "I have (already) ruled out any prospect of going into government with Sinn Féin."

He dismissed as "nonsense" a suggestion that Fianna Fáil was merely jockeying for political position with Sinn Féin, who first announced a plan to table a motion of no confidence in the Tánaiste. The Dáil order of business allowed Fianna Fáil to move first.

Update 11.10am Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin has defended his party's tabling of a no confidence motion in Tánaiste Frances Fitzgerald.

The party had a front bench meeting this morning, where the motion was ratified. It was tabled at 11am.

Mr Martin denied the party had "torn up" the confidence and supply agreement.

"This has to do with the Tánaiste's knowledge of a legal campaign to undermine the character of Maurice McCabe...The Minister was aware of that at the time, and chose not to act," he said.

Frances Fitzgerald has said she was not aware of any legal strategy to undermine Sgt McCabe, and in any case was legally prohibited from intervening with the Garda legal strategy.

Mr Martin said he had spoken to Leo Varadkar on Wednesday saying he regarded this as a core issue that threatened the confidence and supply agreement.

He said he and Varadkar spoke again yesterday, with no satisfactory conclusion.

Asked a question on the timing of the Fianna Fáil no confidence motion, party leader Mr Martin has said that the Tánaiste should step aside, and avoid a General Election.

Speaking on RTE's Today With Séan O'Rourke radio programme, he agreed that the only way to avoid a General Election is for Frances Fitzgerald to go.

Crucial Brexit talks are scheduled in two weeks' time at EU level, and it is unclear what Ireland's negotiating position would be in the event of an imminent election.

However, Mr Martin said the issues raised by the Maurice McCabe email amounted to a core issue that was impossible to gloss over or ignore.

He said: "The whole issue around the attempts to undermine Maurice McCabe should be of concern to every citizen."

Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin
Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin

​​Update 11am: FF tables no confidence motion; General Election inevitable

Fianna Fáil has tabled its motion of no confidence in Tánaiste France Fitzgerald, in the teeth of sombre warnings from Government Ministers that this will breach the inter-party agreement that underpins the Government.

Fianna Fáil's motion is due to be discussed on Tuesday. It was sparked by this week's furore over an email concerning Sgt Maurice McCabe which was received by Minister Fitzgerald in 2015 when she headed the Department of Justice.

Both Minister for Foreign Affairs Simon Coveney and Social Protection Minister Regina Doherty said today that Fianna Fáil's no-confidence motion breaches the confidence and supply agreement.

Minister Coveney said this morning that without the agreement, the Government cannot function. He would not be drawn on whether this automatically means a General Election will be called, nor on the likely date for that.

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar could travel to Aras an Uachtarain as early as tomorrow to seek a dissolution of the Dail in order to allow a General Election before Christmas, writes Daniel McConnell, Political Editor

This was the view of three senior Government figures speaking to the Irish Examiner on Friday morning as Fianna Fail was preparing to lodge a motion of no confidence in Tanaiste Frances Fitzgerald.

This move, several Fine Gael ministers, meant the end of the Confidence and Supply deal which has underpinned the 18-month old minority Government.

Mr Varadkar is said to be considering holding the election on the same day as a crucial European Union summit on Brexit in December, several sources have said.

Last night, ministers had spoken of wanting an election in mid January but by Friday morning a consensus view had taken hold than an earlier election is preferabe.

“There is a firm belief that if you are to go, it is better to go now rather than wait. Remember what happened last time. We wanted to go in November, we held off and got slaughtered in February,” one minister said.

Should the election take place on December 15, Mr Varadkar would be in Brussels as the country went to the polls.

Such a scenario is less than ideal as relations between Dublin and London have become strained in recent months as progress on Brexit has stalled.

Ms Fitzgerald faced allegations from Opposition parties that she was aware of a campaign to discredit Garda whistleblower Sgt Maurice McCabe at the O’Higgins commission.

Fianna Fáil says it has no confidence in Ms Fitzgerald but Fine Gael insists the Tánaiste did nothing wrong and should not be forced from her position.

Mr Varadkar is “ready and waiting” to holding another meeting with Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin to see if an election can be spared.

Update 10.40am: Regina Doherty 'begs' Fianna Fáil: 'Do not bring us to the polls'

Social Protection Minister Regina Doherty has called on Fianna Fáil "to step back from the brink" and not table a motion of no confidence in Frances Fitzgerald.

"I would beg Fianna Fáil - do not bring us to the polls," she said.

Speaking on RTE's Today With Séan O'Rourke, she said: "I'm asking publicly on the airwaves for Fianna Fáil to step back...This stopped being about Frances Fitzgerald days ago."

The confidence and supply agreement "is working in the best interests of providing a stable government for the Irish people", she said and she reiterated Simon Coveney's earlier point that there is a specific clause that Fianna Fáil will abstain in any motion of no confidence in any Minister.

"They are (now) proposing that in the next 20 minutes, they will put down a motion of no confidence (in Frances Fitzgerald)," she said, adding this breaches the confidence and supply agreement.

Update 10.30am: Christmas bonus 'will be paid next week' no matter what happens to the Government: Doherty

Social Protection Minister Regina Doherty has confirmed the Christmas bonus will be paid next week and the week after to social welfare recipients, regardless of the current political upheaval.

However, across-the-board social welfare increases of €5, which were variously due to kick in in January and March next year, are now "up in the air" she said.

None of the social welfare increases announced in the Budget can start until the Social Welfare Bill is passed, and debate only started on that last night. In the event the Government collapses and a General Election is called, it is unclear how and when the required legislation would pass through the houses to allow the increases to kick in.

"Can we come back from the brink please from whatever this political row is over?" Minister Doherty asked, adding she was still "scratching her head" on why Frances Fitzgerald is being targeted.

'Let's all calm down a bit': Varadkar not seeking Tánaiste's resignation

Update 8.45am: Coveney: 'If FF tables a no-confidence motion, the government agreement is over'

Minister for Foreign Affairs Simon Coveney has confirmed that if Fianna Fáil tables a threatened motion of no confidence in Frances Fitzgerald, the confidence and supply agreement that underpins the Government is over.

However, Minister Coveney said Fine Gael does not want, and the country does not need, a General Election.

Fianna Fáil is due to table its motion this morning, for discussion on Tuesday.

Speaking on Morning Ireland, Minister Coveney said: "If (Fianna Fáil) move ahead with the no-confidence motion, the confidence and supply agreement is over."

He said he was involved in drafting the confidence and supply agreement with Fianna Fáil and "they (Fianna Fáil) made a very clear commitment that they would not be supporting motions of no confidence in individual Ministers.

"You can't have the main opposition deciding who can be a Minister and who can't be, and have a credible Government."

He added: "If there is no confidence and supply agreement in place between Fianna fáil and Fine Gael, I don't see how we can have a government that can function."

Simon Coveney also accused Fianna Fáil of "reckless politics", saying: "The country does not need an election, particularly as we face many challenges. Fianna Fáil is engaged in reckless politics to try and damage the Taoiseach and the Government.

"There is no reason for the Tánaiste Frances Fitzgerald to resign. The Tribunal must be allowed to complete its work. Fianna Fáil are making a determination before due process takes its course for party political reasons.

"What Leo Varadkar is not going to do is abandon his Tánaiste and effectively ask her to resign on the back of a case that FF and SF have made which we don’t think even stands up."

Speaking earlier on the programme, Fianna Fáil's Dara Calleary reiterated that Fianna Fáil does not have confidence in the Tánaiste, and believes her incompetent to continue in the role.

'Let's all calm down a bit': Varadkar not seeking Tánaiste's resignation

Ealier: The country may be facing a snap general election in January after Taoiseach Leo Varadkar refused to sack his Tánaiste, Frances Fitzgerald, over the Maurice McCabe email saga, writes Elaine Loughlin, Daniel McConnell, Juno McEnroe and Fiachra Ó Cionnaith

It came after Fianna Fáil decided to table a motion of no confidence in her, effectively ending the confidence and supply deal, which has underpinned the minority Government for 18 months.

Just four months into Mr Varadkar’s premiership, Fianna Fáil called for Ms Fitzgerald’s resignation after inaccurate information led the Taoiseach to inadvertently mislead the Dáil on several occasions.

Mr Varadkar was greeted with “resounding applause” at a meeting of the Fine Gael parliamentary party called for 10pm last night to rally support for Ms Fitzgerald, where members voted unanimously to stand behind Ms Fitzgerald.

The Taoiseach told his TDs and senators to prepare for an election in mid-January. One minister suggested it could take place on Friday, January 12.

Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin has called an emergency meeting of his front bench for 9.30am today to discuss the full-blown political crisis.

Several ministers, speaking to the Irish Examiner, said an election earlier than that would cause major complications, as it would see Mr Varadkar attending a Brexit summit in Brussels in mid-December as a “lame-duck” Taoiseach and prevent the passage of the finance bill.

At an earlier meeting of Fine Gael ministers, Mr Varadkar told his colleagues he would not sack Ms Fitzgerald, did not expect her to resign, and did not want her to resign.

'Let's all calm down a bit': Varadkar not seeking Tánaiste's resignation

Mr Varadkar told ministers he did not want a general election but would not allowed the Tánaiste to be thrown under a bus. He said he was “fully behind our colleague, who acted honourably at all times”.

He added that he would not be “throwing her to the wolves” on “some trumped-up charge from Sinn Féin”.

Fine Gael parliamentary party chairman Martin Leydon said: “What we have seen from both Sinn Féin and Fianna Fáil today is a political stunt, pure and simple. We will not allow the opposition bully us.

“Sinn Féin is attempting to undermine the work of the Charleton Tribunal, which was set up by the Fine Gael-led Government to investigate the treatment of Maurice McCabe.”

Housing Minister Eoghan Murphy said: “It is Fianna Fáil’s decision as to whether there is an election. To have an election now would be entirely irresponsible. The confidence and supply is a deal between us and Fianna Fáil. If they do not vote confidence in the Tánaiste, then they are breaching the agreement and we can’t have a government.”

Justice Minister Charlie Flanagan also became embroiled in the latest scandal when it was revealed that he was told of the email a full week before the Taoiseach was informed.

Despite having knowledge of the email, Mr Flanagan sat at the side of the Taoiseach as he gave incorrect information under questioning in the Dáil on November 14, claiming the Department of Justice had “not been able to find any record of being informed before the fact of the legal strategy the commissioner was going to pursue”.

Fianna Fáil’s justice spokesman, Jim O’Callaghan, said the party is ready to fight an election should Ms Fitzgerald refuse to quit.

The Independent Alliance last night threw its support behind the Tánaiste, with a senior minister saying “if there is an election, so be it”.

In the Dáil, the Tánaiste made a last-ditch, passionate attempt to exonerate herself, denying claims that she tried to suppress the email which detailed a legal strategy to discredit Sgt McCabe.

Sinn Féin decided to put down a motion of no confidence after their deputy leader, Mary Lou McDonald, said: “She failed Maurice McCabe and it is now abundantly clear that it is time for the Tánaiste to go.”

Mr Martin spoke with Mr Varadkar for a second time last night in 24 hours, reiterating that Ms Fitzgerald must go.

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