Pressure mounts on Tánaiste from FG ministers

Tánaiste Frances Fitzgerald faces mounting pressure from her Fine Gael ministerial colleagues after fresh information around her knowledge of the Maurice McCabe scandal emerged.

Crisis-hit Fine Gael will have all their candidates selected by Thursday if a snap general election is called.

As further revelations emerged around Ms Fitzgerald’s knowledge of the campaign to discredit Mauirce McCabe before the O’Higgins commission, Fine Gael HQ sprung into action with 18 selection conventions organised for both last night and tonight.

As documents released by the Department of Justice last night revealed Ms Fitzgerald was contacted and given advise on how to respond to any media queries around an aggressive stance taken towards Maurice McCabe at the commission.

Asked if it was not time for Ms Fitzgerald to stand aside one minister last night said: “Arguably that time was the start of last week”.

“What it also raises is how were these emails not given to the tribunal before now, what was the department at?

“We should have known about these for a long time,” the minister added, suggesting that Ms Fitzgerald would have likely not been reappointed if the emails had been uncovered when the tribunal was set up.

Another minister last night said that he had spoken to a number of his Fine Gael colleagues who were “very unhappy”, adding that it was now felt she should step down.

He said members were also angry that she had “persisted in defending herself” even after she had received the latest emails on Friday.

Earlier in the day and before the documents were published, Fine Gael ministers yesterday moved to play down the possibility an election being called in the coming days, with Finance Minister Paschal Donohoe claiming the Taoiseach would be looking at “any options that are open to him to avoid an election that nobody wants”.

He said the Taoiseach was taking negotiations with Fianna Fáil leader Micheal Martin “very seriously” and would “do all that is possible to avoid an election taking place”. “

Mr Donohoe warned that a number of pieces of important legislation including restoration of public sector pay and increases to social welfare payments announced in the Budget still need to be passed by the Dáil.

Foreign Affairs Minister Simon Coveney, who on Friday described Fianna Fáil as engaging in “reckless politics” also moved to soften his tone on the matter yesterday.

Admitting both Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael were in a difficult political position he yesterday called for “cool heads”; this was echoed by Education Minister Richard Bruton.

Mr Coveney said neither Fine Gael nor Fianna Fáil wanted an election, but there was a difficult political situation to be managed.

“Fianna Fáil is asking for political accountability and that is reasonable,” he told RTÉ’s Sean O’Rourke programme, but added that the Charleton Tribunal was the best place to do this.

Fine Gael had already chosen Noel Rock in Dublin North West along with Josepha Madigan and Neale Richmond in Dublin Rathdown before last week, however, a party spokesman confirmed that in the event of a snap election, the remaining conventions would be completed on Wednesday and Thursday of this week.

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