Government in crisis

Ireland on the verge of a general election

Rachel Flaherty, Sorcha Pollak Tue, Nov 28
 
LIVE: Government in crisis

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  • 08:46

     


    Good morning, Sorcha Pollak here with you for the day bringing you the latest on discussions between Leo Varadkar and Micheál Martin re the possibility of a pre-Christmas election.


    Get in touch at spollak@irishtimes.com or on Twitter @SorchaPollak with your thoughts and comments on the past few days’ political events and whether you think an election is a good idea.  

  • 08:49

    Will an election happen before Christmas?

    The answer is we still don’t know. Last-ditch efforts to avoid a general election will continue today after a late-night meeting between Taoiseach Leo Varadkar and Fianna Fáil leader  Micheál Martin ended just before 10.30pm last night without resolution.

    Both sides say they will continue talking today and it is understood they have discussed a possible solution which involves Tánaiste Frances Fitzgerald remaining in Government but her role in the controversy being examined in January by the Charleton tribunal, which is investigating the treatment of Garda whistleblower Maurice McCabe

  • 08:58

    What is Frances Fitzgerald’s involvement in all of this?

    Tánaiste Frances Fitzgerald is at the centre of the controversy relating to when she first learned about the Garda legal strategy to attack Garda whistleblower Maurice McCabe. It emerged last week she had received an email about the strategy in May 2015, a year earlier than she and the Taoiseach had stated.

    RTÉ reported on Sunday that the former Garda commissioner Nóirín O’Sullivan telephoned a senior Department of Justice official in 2015 and spoke about the legal strategy that challenged Sgt McCabe at the O’Higgins commission examining the Garda’s Cavan-Monaghan division.

    A spokeswoman for Ms Fitzgerald said the Tánaiste was not aware of the phone conversation between the then Garda commissioner and the senior Justice official. However, the call makes clear that contact between the department and the gardaí about the approach to Sgt McCabe at the commission was not limited to the single email to Ms Fitzgerald which was unearthed last week and caused the current controversy.

    The Irish Times understands the trawl for documents in the department has also unearthed another email to the Tánaiste’s office, notifying her of a press query in 2015, which references Sgt McCabe’s evidence at the O’Higgins commission.

  • 09:04

    What kind of deal are Varadkar and Martin discussing?

    It is understood the elements of a potential deal have been discussed between the Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil leaders.  This could involve amending the terms of reference of the Charleton tribunal to allow it investigate specifically the contacts between the gardaí and the office of the Tánaiste and former minister for justice Ms Fitzgerald.

    If combined with a statement in the Dáil from Ms Fitzgerald which acknowledged concerns about her management of the issues, Fianna Fáil could consider stepping back from its demand that the Tánaiste resign this week and withdraw its motion of no confidence in her. However, this would require both parties to move from their current positions.

    Sunday’s meeting between the two party leaders was the second such meeting held over the weekend. There was also continuous contact by telephone between the two leaders and senior official.

    Fine Gael ministers have said they will fight an election if needs be but some senior party figures said there would be immense pressure on Ms Fitzgerald to resign to prevent a general election if no agreement is reached.  

  • 09:14

    Release on Monday of relevant documents?

    It’s understood that central to the leaders’ discussions is the outcome of a trawl for any relevant documents in the Department of Justice. On Saturday, Leo Varadkar handed Micheál Martin a four-page summary of what had been uncovered to date. The department was completing its trawl on Sunday night. All the documents found will be distributed to all political parties on Monday.

  • 09:16
  • 09:20

    Sinn Féin ‘the only ones who want a general election’

    Minister for Social Protection Regina Doherty has said Sinn Féin “are the only ones who want a general election”. Speaking on Newstalk Breakfast earlier today, Ms Doherty said the leaders of Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil had a responsibility to the country, to the EU and to the Stormont talks.

    There are a number of crucial pieces of legislation that need to be passed such as the Social Welfare Bill, Fempi legislation and the Finance Bill, she added.  

  • 09:31

    Only two ways of avoiding an election and only about 24 hours to do so...

    Irish Times political editor Pat Leahy writes that unless a solution is found on Monday or early Tuesday, there will be a general election before Christmas, probably on December 19th or 20th

    He writes: “There are only two possible solutions. The first solution is that the two party leaders reach an agreement that enables Fianna Fáil to withdraw its motion of no confidence in the Tánaiste.

    “Given this would require Micheál Martin to drop his demand for Frances Fitzgerald’s resignation, Fianna Fáil would surely require considerable concessions from Fine Gael in return.

    “The second solution is the resignation of Fitzgerald from the Government. The Taoiseach has made it completely clear that he will not ask her to step down, and has even stressed that nothing in his words should be interpreted as distancing himself from her, or seeking to put any pressure on her to resign. Though that is not a view shared by all Fine Gaelers in private.”

    Leahy dismissed hopes that the President may refuse the dissolution of the Dáil, writing that this could only be exercised if “there was a clear alternative in the Dáil which could command a majority. That is not the case. The President will not save the leaders of Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil from the consequences of their continuing disagreement.

    Read more from Pat Leahy here

  • 09:41

    What was in that email?

    RTÉ political correspondent Katie Hannon writes this morning that “if we are to have an election ‘over one email’ as has been stated repeatedly over recent days, let’s take a close look at that email and what it tells us about how the role of the Department of Justice and its minister in this sorry affair.”

    Hannon writes that the email was written by Michael Flahive, an assistant secretary in the Department of Justice. In the email he explains that he had taken a call from Richard Barrett,  Deputy Secretary General in the Office of the Attorney General.

    “He wrote that Mr Barrett had told him that the garda commissioner’s legal team had raised a very serious criminal allegation that had been made against Maurice McCabe,” reports Hannon. “He wrote that counsel for Sgt McCabe had objected and asked if this approach had been authorised by the garda commissioner.

    “He said Mr Barrett had told him the garda commissioner’s authorisation had been reaffirmed. Finally he said he and Mr Barrett had agreed that neither of their bosses, the attorney nor the minister, "had a function" in relation to the evidence that a party to a Commission of Investigation may adduce.”

  • 09:49

    Can Michael D save the day?

    In a way, yes. The Irish president does hold the power to refuse an election if the Taoiseach in power does not enjoy a majority, writes Brian Murphy. He can refuse the dissolution on the grounds that it may be possible to form another coalition of parties without an election.

    “Such an action, however, would place President Higgins in an invidious position, especially little more than a year out from the scheduled presidential election,” writes Murphy.

    Article 13.2.2 of Bunreacht na hÉireann states that 'the President may in his absolute discretion refuse to dissolve Dáil Éireann on the advice of a Taoiseach who has ceased to retain the support of a majority in Dáil Éireann'.

    "If Fianna Fáil follow through with their no confidence motion, it will provide parliamentary confirmation that the confidence and supply arrangement is dead and that the Government has lost its majority in the Dáil."

  • 10:09
  • 10:22

     When has the Government been tested like this before?

    Irish Times political correspondent Harry McGee has taken a step back in time to reflect on some of the resignations and scandals over the past few decades that derailed both individual ministers and entire governments.

    In 2014, Alan Shatter resigned as Minister for Justice following several months in which he was dogged by controversy over his handling, and the Department of Justice’s handling, of allegations of Garda malpractice made by Garda whistleblower Sgt Maurice McCabe. Then taoiseach Enda Kenny essentially pressed for Shatter’s resignation on foot of adverse findings against him in a report written by senior counsel Sean Guerin. Shatter subsequently overturned the findings and was exonerated when he challenged the findings in court.

    Two decades earlier, in 1994, the Fianna Fáil-Labour coalition fell apart after it emerged there were long delays in the Attorney General’s office in processing the extradition of paedophile priest Fr Brendan Smyth. The then attorney general Harry Whelehan had just been appointed President of the High Court. But in an unprecedented reverse, he was pressurised to resign from the position. Outgoing taoiseach Albert Reynolds resigned and was replaced by Bertie Ahern.

    In 1982 a minority Fine Gael government fell over the issue of children’s shoes. Garret Fitzgerald was taoiseach and John Bruton was minister for finance. He planned to introduce VAT for children’s shoes.

    Jim Kemmy was one of a small number of Independent TDs supporting the government. The Limerick deputy told Bruton he could not support the VAT measure. When it was included in the document, he voted against the Government, triggering a general election.

    In 2011 the Fianna Fáil-Greens government crashed due to a plan to replace most of the Cabinet with Fianna Fáil’s brightest up-and-coming TDs. Initially, Coalition partners the Green Party went along with the plan. But when it became obvious that the idea was far-fetched, the party quickly withdrew its support. Most of Brian Cowen’s Fianna Fáil ministers had stepped down leaving him with only a handful of ministers, who were forced to take on extra portfolios. The government collapsed soon afterwards.

  • 10:30

    How did Frances Fitzgerald reach this point?

    Pat Leahy takes a look back at the career of the Tánaiste which drew on doggedness and canniness to rise from holding a seat in Dublin South East to the second-highest Government office position in Ireland.

    “In the cacophony of gossip about jobs and positions that always hangs around Leinster House, she is rumoured to have designs on the presidency,” writes Leahy. “And while the days of established politicians from the big parties having a head start in presidential elections may be over, Fitzgerald would be a formidable candidate. Though ultimately, that might depend on how the current controversy resolves itself.”

  • 10:34
  • 10:41

    Fianna Fáil spokesperson says party does not want election

    Thomas Byrne, Fianna Fáil spokesperson on Education and Skills has reasserted that his party does not want a general election.

    Speaking on Newstalk Breakfast, Mr Byrne said the idea that Frances Fitzgerald did not know about the conversation between then Garda Commissioner Noirín O’Sullivan and the Secretary General of the Department of Justice was itself a matter for her resignation.

    “Was she asleep at the wheel or was there something else going on?,” asked Mr Byrne. “We’re not looking for a head. We are holding the Government to account. We are working really hard at a compromise. We do not want an election.”
  • 10:44
    Update on talks - Leo Varadkar and Micheál Martin are set to meet in Cork this afternoon in an attempt ot break the impasse between the two parties. More to follow on this...
  • 10:45
    Meanwhile in the UK media....  
  • 11:02

     Coveney says “no attempt to hide anything” or protect Fitzgerald from exposure

    Minister for Foreign Affairs Simon Coveney has called for “cool heads” over the motion of no confidence in Frances Fitzgerald and says there has been “no attempt to hide anything” or protect the Tánaiste “from the exposure of the truth”.

    Mr Coveney told RTÉ’s Today with Sean O’Rourke that the issue of calls for the resignation of Ms Fitzgerald had not yet been resolved in discussions between Varadkar and Martin.

    Any discussion on her political judgment should be made after the Charleton Tribunal reports back to the Government, he said.

    Mr Coveney said he believed Fianna Fáil had genuine concerns and he understood the talks between the two party leaders had been constructive.

    Also speaking on the RTÉ show, Fianna Fáil spokesperson Stephen Donnelly said Ms Fitzgerald should have apologised to Maurice McCabe and his family last week and then resigned.

    “If a Minister in the UK had gone through the same thing they would have resigned,” he said. “We would like Frances Fitzgerald to say that she got it wrong and to step back.”

  • 11:10

    Irish Times reader Michael Pratt has contacted the blog saying it would be “stupid” to have an election right now and warns that holding a vote during one of the coldest period of the years could alienate the elderly.

    “Brexit negotiations are entering a critical stage, the boarder issue looms large, and that's only two issues,” writes Mr Pratt. “Pensioners do vote, but in the cold winter they may not. This is a way of disenfranchising   the elderly.”

  • 11:33

    Fine Gael is still fully behind Frances Fitzgerald and other options aside from her resignation are being examined in an effort to avert a general election, Minister for Finance Paschal Donohoe has said.

    Speaking in Dublin, Mr Donohoe said the Taoiseach would be “looking t any options that are open to him to avoid an election that nobody wants.

    “It is even more apparent now that the country is facing so many challenges and indeed so many opportunities that will need to be dealt with across the month of December and into Janaury,” the Dublin Central TD said. “For all of those reasons, it is imperative that we do all we can we ensure an election doesn’t happen but Fianna Fáil need to do their bit to.”

     “We want to see if it is possible to reach a solution that avoids and election taking place. If an election does happen, our party is ready for it. My selection convention is tonight.

    “I don’t think any of us can understate how sensitive and how important the negotiations are that are currently under way. They are moving into their fourth day.”

     

  • 11:36

    Tweet from John Concannon, head of Tasoieach's strategic communication unit, posted at 11.26am on Monday. The tweet was deleted a few minutes later...

  • 11:43
  • 11:54

    Green party ‘not seeking heads on a plate’

    Green Party leader Eamon Ryan has said his party is “not seeking heads on a plate”, but that they want political accountability. Mr Ryan told RTÉ’s Today with Sean O’Rourke that priority should be given to the upcoming EU talks and that it was not in the best interest of the country to call an election now.

    Also speaking on the programme, Sinn Féin deputy leader said as a parent with a young family she knew Christmas was not a good time for an election but stressed the need for a change of government.

    “Our motion is not calling for an election, it’s about calling for accountability. It is not in any way credible for the Dáil to express confidence in the Tánaiste. With every piece of evidence the situation becomes more and more alarming. All this is avoidable if the Taoiseach takes a stand.”
  • 12:02

    Irish Times reader John Rogers has contacted us to say he agrees with Michael Pratt’s comment (see earlier in the blog) that an election right now could alienate elderly votes because of the cold weather.

    Mr Rogers writes that “elderly voters are FF & FG’s bread and butter” and that “both parties would be loathe to go to the polls in any way that might alienate the one demographic that almost always votes for them”.

    “A Christmas election wouldn't be good for any party,” writes Mr Rogers, adding that “naked opportunism from SF, the usual recklessness from FF and misplaced bellicosity  from FG have brought us to the brink of an election at the worst possible time”.
  • 12:05
  • 12:40

    Government Chief Whip Joe Mc Hugh has said if the immediate political crisis can be overcome  Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil should immediately negotiate a new agreement for the next 2-3 years rather than limp through on the current confidence and supply agreement.

    Speaking on  Highland Radio's Nine ’til Noon Show, Mr Mc Hugh said any such deal would have to happen in tandem with a major review of the Department of Justice.

  • 12:43
  • 12:44
  • 12:58

    What would persuade Fitzgerald to step down? ‘Public opinion, the morning papers, Joe Duffy’

    President Michael D Higgins could be the ‘hero’ of the day if he refuses the Taoiseach a dissolution of the Dáil, a senior Fine Gael politician has said.

    The Fine Gael veteran told Marie O’Halloran: “Michael D wouldn’t even have to canvass a single vote for the [presidential] election if he sent them back. He’d tell them: ‘There’s an alternative here and you’d better find it.’ He’d be seen to be in touch with the people and the politicians aren’t. He would be a hero.”

    One thing universally agreed in a ring-around of Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil TDs after a weekend in their constituencies is that nobody wants an election, writes O’Halloran.  But newer TDs believe an election is inevitable unless the other side steps back. They all found their constituencies very “Brexit-aware”.

    And all agree a so-called snap election is likely to lead to a protracted post-election negotiation even longer than the 10 weeks it took to put this Government together.

    One seasoned Fine Gaeler hopes Tánaiste Frances Fitzgerald will save everyone from a brutal election and stand down.

    “Nobody will put pressure on Frances. I can’t see anyone breaking ranks. The organisation doesn’t want to give in to Fianna Fáil either. Herself and her family will have to make that decision.”

    What will persuade her? “Public opinion, the morning papers, Joe Duffy.”

  • 12:59

    A twitter feed has emerged in the past hour following John Concannon’s fleeting #Ge17 tweet which appeared momentarily on the social media platform this morning. The big question is no longer will there be a general election, but did Eoin collect the eggs?

  • 13:06
  • 13:23

    Urgent hearing into Joe Costello's case over Dáil numbers

    Former Labour Party TD Joe Costello has told The Irish Times he plans to run in the Dublin central constituency  even if he fails in his High Court challenge to force the Dáil to pass legislation increasing it from a three-seater to a four-seater.

    The High Court has made directions for an urgent hearing of Mr Costello’s action aimed at increasing the number of members of the Dáil before any general election.

    Mr Costello is not pursuing an injunction preventing dissolution of the current Dáil before any such laws are introduced and is rather seeking various declarations, the president of the High Court, Mr Justice Peter Kelly noted.

    Lawyers for Mr Costello told the High court that if an election is called now there would be concerns that the make-up of the next Dáil could be in breach of the Constitution and that members of the Dáil would have failed in their duty to enact the necessary laws and remedy the breach of Article 16.2.2.

    Article 16.2.2 provides the total number of members of Dáil Éireann “shall not be fixed at less than one member for each thirty thousand of the population or at more than one member for each twenty thousand of the population”.

    The case also included an application for an injunction to prevent any dissolution of the Dáil until the relevant laws were enacted.

  • 13:41
  • 13:45

    Leinster House staff on zero-hour contracts fear winter election

    Staff working in Leinster House on zero-hours contracts for external companies could be left without an income in the run-up to Christmas if a general election is called, writes Jack Power.

    The threat is causing “severe anxiety”, The Irish Times was told. “It’s a major financial hit just before Christmas, it’s a total disaster. How do you plan your life for this?” one contract worker said.

    The shifts given to some Leinster House contract staff depend on the length of Oireachtas sittings, with their contracts making it clear that their employers are not “obliged to offer you work”.

    Agency staff are used, too, in the kitchens and catering, a spokesman for the Houses of the Oireachtas confirmed, adding that they are are employed on a “drawdown basis”.

  • 14:01

    Confidence and supply agreement not beyond repair, says Bruton

    The confidence and supply agreement between Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil is not beyond repair, Minister for Education Richard Bruton has said.

    Mr Bruton, who was abrpad last week, told RTÉ’s News at One programme he was amazed to find on his return that the Tánaiste was expected to resign.

    He cautioned not to prejudge the situation but acknowledged that matters such as the trawl for documents had not been handled well.

    “This is a time for cool heads,” he said. “This is a significant time with Brexit negotiations at a delicate stage. There are high stakes in that game.”

    Speaking on the same programme, Fianna Fáil TD Robert Troy called for time and space for discussions to continue and said that neither party wanted to head into an election.

    “I would like common sense to prevail in the hope that an early election can be avoided. We have raised very real concerns.”

    He said that Fianna Fáil had been left with no option when Leo Varadkar did not reply to calls. "The easiest way for the situation to be resolved is for the Tánaiste to admit she did wrong and for her to step aside.”
  • 14:12

    Protections for women and children living in violent homes at risk if election called

    The legal protection of women and children living with violence in their homes will be at serious risk if an election is called this week, Safe Ireland has said.

    The Domestic Violence Bill 2017, which is scheduled to go to the Seanad on Tuesday and features “historic legal protections in Government amendments”, will for the first time recognise coercive control as a criminal offence and state that violence within an intimate relationship is to be viewed as an aggravating factor in sentencing.

    The National Organisation of Domestic Violence Services Safe Ireland has underlined the importance of ensuring the Bill, with its tabled amendments, is given the time needed to pass through the Oireachtas to enactment stage.

    “This is telling women that the violence, fear and control that they live with is not ‘just a domestic’,” said Sharon O’Halloran, head of Safe Ireland.  “ It is actually a more serious crime precisely because the person committing the offence is somebody they and their children loved and trusted.   This is monumental and can’t be sidelined because of the distraction of Election.”

  • 14:31

    Reminder of what we know so far today...

    • Fine Gael leader Leo Varadkar and Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin are meeting in Dublin this afternoon in an attempt to avert a pre-Christmas general election that will likely follow if a motion of no confidence in Tánaiste Frances Fitzgerald proceeds as planned on Tuesday.
    • The Taoiseach said this morning that he was standing by Ms Fitzgerald and hoped that talks could resolve the crisis. “I think it’s fair to say neither Fianna Fáil nor Fine Gael want an election – it seems Sinn Féin are the only party that want that.”
    • Mr Varadkar insisted any resolution would not involve Ms Fitzgerald stepping down. “As I have always said, I have nothing to hide, Fine Gael has nothing to hide so we are not trying to protect anyone – we just want to make sure there is due process and people are treated fairly and certainly I don’t want there to be an election”.
    • The controversy centres on when Ms Fitzgerald first learned of the Garda legal strategy to attack the credibility of Sgt McCabe at the O’Higgins commission examining issues in the Garda’s Cavan-Monaghan division.
    • RTÉ reported on Sunday that the former Garda commissioner Nóirín O’Sullivan telephoned a senior Department of Justice official in 2015 and spoke about the legal strategy that challenged the Garda whistleblower at the O’Higgins commission. A spokeswoman for Ms Fitzgerald said the Tánaiste was not aware of the phone conversation between the then Garda commissioner and the senior official.
    • However, the call makes clear that contact between the department and the gardaí about the approach to Sgt McCabe at the commission was not limited to the single email to Ms Fitzgerald which was unearthed last week and caused the current controversy.
    • It emerged last week Ms Fitzgerald had received an email about the strategy in May 2015, a year earlier than she and the Taoiseach had stated.
    • Minister for Finance Paschal Donohoe said the Taoiseach “will also be looking at any options that are open to him to avoid an election that nobody wants. It is even more apparent now that the country is facing so many challenges and indeed so many opportunities that will need to be dealt with across the month of December and into January.”
    • One possible solution which has reportedly been discussed involves Ms Fitzgerald remaining in Government but her role in the controversy being examined in January by the Charleton tribunal, which is investigating the treatment of Garda whistleblower Maurice McCabe.
    • Minister for Foreign Affairs Simon Coveney on Monday called for “cool heads” and said there was “no attempt here to hide anything or to protect Frances Fitzgerald from the exposure of the truth”.
  • 14:54
  • 15:14

    “We’re being told nothing” say TDs

    While Leo Varadkar and Micheál Martin meet on Monday in a last-ditch effort to avoid a general election, it is becoming increasingly clear that neither party is fully united behind their leaders.

    In Leinster House, writes Sarah Bardon, TDs have been getting anxious.

    While first time deputies wanted him, to quote one, “to stick the dagger in”; the more experienced politicians were urging caution.

    As the Tánaiste’s story changed yet again on Wednesday, Micheál Martin made a call to Leo Varadkar to advise him the party could no longer express confidence in the Tánaiste.

    Later that evening, the Fianna Fáil leader addressed a parliamentary party meeting on the matter and sought “space and time” to address the issues. He did not tell them of the call he had made that afternoon.

    Varadkar never got back to Martin, despite a commitment to do so. Martin phoned the Taoiseach again on Thursday and informed him Jim O’Callaghan, the party’s spokesman on justice, was to go on RTÉ Six O’Clock News and confirm the party’s position.

    O’Callaghan’s announcement changed everything for Fine Gael. Earlier in the week, Fine Gael TDs, from senior Ministerial rank to backbench TD, were acknowledging Fitzgerald was coming to the end of her political career as a result of this controversy. Many were gleeful at the prospect.

    However, Varadkar called a meeting of Ministers that evening. It soon became about more than Fitzgerald; it became about Varadkar, his leadership and his retention in justice.

    Fine Gael was now willing to fight to save Fitzgerald.

    For more on reaction from TDs, read Sarah Bardon’s article here.  

  • 15:18

    This old chestnut is resurfacing...

  • 15:33

    Oireachtas HR distribute letter to staff in response to `concern and worry’ over possible election

    The Houses of the Oireachtas have contacted staff to advise them of their rights in the event of a general election.

    A letter from human resources has been distributed to all staff members in response to the “concern and worry for a lot of political staff”, writes Sarah Bardon.

    While a general election has not been called, the note says the threat of one has led to some misinformation being distributed to some staff.

    It says staff will continue to be paid throughout the period the Dáil is dissolved and they must continue to carry out your work duties as normal during this period.

    Following the results of an election, if the staff member’s TD is re-elected, a new contract for the next Dáil/Seanad will be immediately entered into.

    If the member is not re-elected, employment will continue for six weeks to allow for the removal of files and the closure of office.

    Temporary staff are, meanwhile, placed on notice on the date of dissolution and those that do not secure new contracts can apply for redundancy.

    The email concludes: “If and when an election is called, HR Members will be circulating up-to-date information to all staff, Members and Party Administrators. This will include confirmed dates and timelines, and up-to-date FAQ (frequently asked questions) documents, forms, etc.”

  • 15:42
  • 16:00

    What happens if no solution is found today?

    If a solution is not found today, the Dáil will discuss a motion of no confidence in the Tánaiste tomorrow night.

    It is likely the Taoiseach will then seek permission from President Michael D Higgins to dissolve the Dáil and call a general election with voting likely to be held on December 19th or 20th.

    Meanwhile, a trawl of documents in the Department of Justice, order by the Taoiseach is expected to conclude today.

    The Irish Times understands the trawl for documents in the department has also unearthed another email to the Tánaiste’s office, notifying her of a press query in 2015, which references Sgt Maurice McCabe’s evidence at the O’Higgins commission.

    The talks today are likely to focus on the elements of a potential deal which have been discussed by the two leaders.

    This could involve amending the terms of reference of the Charleton tribunal to allow it to investigate specifically the contacts between the gardaí and the office of the Tánaiste and former minister for justice Ms Fitzgerald.

    If combined with a statement in the Dáil from Ms Fitzgerald which acknowledged concerns about her management of the issues, Fianna Fáil could consider stepping back from its demand that Ms Fitzgerald resign this week and withdraw its motion of no confidence in her. However, this would require both parties to move from their current positions.

  • 16:11
    Sorcha Pollak here signing off and passing liveblog duties on to my colleague Rachel Flaherty @rachelfl for the rest of the evening.  
  • 16:19

    Good evening. Stay with us for all the latest updates on whether or not we will have an election.

    If you’d like to get in touch you can contact me on rflaherty@irishtimes.com or on Twitter @rachelfl

  • 16:27

    Cancel Christmas?

     




  • 16:41

    Irish Times reader Simon Jones has contacted the blog about zero hours contract workers potentially losing their jobs "if/when the Dáil is dissolved".
     
    "I can't be the only person who is astonished that people working at our national parliament are on these contracts. Is this the Republic of Opportunity we hear so much about? It is disgraceful."

  • 17:36
    Update from our Political Editor Pat Leahy:

    "The Department of Justice says that it cannot say when it will release the tranche of documents uncovered in the trawl ordered by the Taoiseach will be released. They were due to have been released today, but we’re still waiting.
  • 17:53

    Latest from Fiach Kelly

    Paschal   Donohoe will also bring legislation to Cabinet tomorrow to allow the State meet most of its spending commitments next year.

    The Minister for Finance was due to bring the Appropriations Bill to Ministerial colleagues in the coming weeks, but accelerated the process due to the threat of a snap general election.

    It will mean that payments such as child benefit and pensions, as well as public sector wages, can be paid from next January.

  • 17:55

    Is Prince Harry to blame for the delay?

    “Of course, releasing a bunch of sensitive documents to the media is the sort of thing calculated to bring most Department of Justice officials out in a rash.

    “On the other hand, they may just be distracted watching the coverage of Prince Harry’s engagement ,” Irish Times’ Editor Pat Leahy says

  • 17:56

    Some good solid life advice from Pat Leahy

    "I remember my own engagement well. There was a fair bit of wine involved. You should never make any important life decisions without a few glasses of wine beforehand. Sharpens your perspective.

     "But I digress."

  • 18:21

    Can we let our hope grow that there will be no election?




  • 18:43

    The Department of Justice says that the documents will be released shortly - latest from Pat Leahy

  • 18:48



  • 18:50
    The   Department of Justice and Equality has just issued a statement...

  • 18:54

    Full statement

    Last week the Taoiseach, Leo Varadkar TD directed the Department of Justice and Equality to conduct a search and retrieval of records and to produce a report setting out progress in implementing the recommendations of   the Toland Report.


    The Department of Justice and Equality is this evening publishing:



          1. An interim report of a search and retrieval of records (this
          report is dated 24 November 2017)


          2. The final report of the search and retrieval of records (this
          report is dated 27 November 2017)


          3. Two email threads which were discovered in the course of   the search and retrieval of records (these have now been sent to the Disclosures Tribunal)


          4. A letter from the Disclosures Tribunal to the Department of
          Justice and Equality (dated 22 November 2017)


          5. A report setting out progress on the implementation of the Toland Report.

  • 19:01

    LATEST: Details of the emails from Sarah Bardon


    Tánaiste Frances Fitzgerald received three emails advising her of the legal strategy by the former garda commissioner against garda whistleblower Maurice McCabe.


    Documents released by the Department of Justice confirm Ms Fitzgerald was contacted on May 15th, 2015 and July 4th, 2015 by officials in the Department outlining the strategy by the former commissioner Nóirín O'Sullivan.


    It also shows Ms Fitzgerald's private secretary responded to the first email on May 25th 2015, and confirmed she had noted its contents.


    In two separate emails on July 4th, the Tanaiste was advised of media queries about the "aggressive" approach being adopted by the former commissioner and advises her how to respond if the media ask her about such.


    The correspondence confirms the Department of Justice liaised with the former commissioner and the garda press office in this regard.

  • 19:04



  • 19:07
  • 19:10

    This email from the Tánaiste’s private secretary on May 25th, 2015 confirms she “has noted the below”.

  • 19:30



  • 19:33



  • 19:35

    What does this latest reveal on the emails mean for the Tánaiste?




  • 19:38
  • 19:40



  • 19:41



  • 19:43

    Things are not looking good for the Tánaiste




  • 20:06

    Is the end near for Frances Fitzgerald?




  • 20:08



  • 20:10

    Still waiting for the Varadkar/Martin meeting to take place tonight




  • 20:13



  • 20:27



  • 20:30







  • 20:37

    An important question that needs to be answered

     




  • 20:52

    In Limerick...




  • 20:55

    It is understood Frances Fitzgerald has just entered Government Buildings, ahead of Varadkar/Martin talks




  • 21:00

    The clock is ticking...




  • 21:08

    Latest from Sarah Bardon...

    A spokesman for Taoiseach says the Government position on Frances Fitzgerald has not changed.

  • 21:17
    Back to looking like there will be an election?
  • 21:28

    Frances Fitzgerald has left Government Buildings... it seems like it was a short visit




  • 21:41

    This is stressful... I need more tea

    There were reports the meeting between Varadkar and Martin was cancelled. However, this was a miscommunication.

    The meeting is still going ahead.

     

  • 21:42



  • 21:45

    Yep




  • 21:51
    Frances Fitzgerald has tweeted...
  • 21:51



  • 21:51



  • 21:58



  • 22:04

    This is true




  • 22:12

    'Our position has not changed. She should go'


    Latest from Sarah Bardon


    Fianna Fáil spokesman on justice Jim O'Callaghan said the Tánaiste should stand aside from her position.


    Mr O'Callaghan said the new documents had shown Ms Fitzgerald was notified of the legal strategy on numerous occasions.


    It also demonstrated how the Department of Justice had liaised with the former garda commissioner about what response she should give if asked media questions.


    Mr O'Callaghan said: "It is very serious from the Tánaiste's point of view. Our position has not changed. She should go."

  • 22:19



  • 22:27

    Frances Fitzgerald will not be resigning




  • 22:38

    Senior FG source tells Irish Times' Michael O’ Regan “blind loyalty to Frances on Leo’s part will not work”.

  • 22:53

    Simon Coveney on Claire Byrne show:

    He asks are you "seriously suggesting" we should force someone to resign when she's done nothing wrong to keep a Government in place?

  • 22:55

    Coveney:

    "Lets allow those leaders to maturely work this issue out."

  • 22:57

    "We believe the Tánaiste has to stand aside," Jim O'Callaghan from Fianna Fáil

    "It's not that we have anything personal against Frances Fitzgerald...it's about accountability."

  • 23:02

    Coveney:

    "It is really regrettable that this political uncertainty is happening"

    He said it is important to wait for the tribunal.

     

  • 23:10



  • 23:11

    Lucinda is still hopeful...

     




  • 23:13



  • 23:14

    Latest news...

    Meeting was adjourned after 11

  • 23:15
    Taoiseach and FF leader will meet again in the morning. Tonight's meeting has ended.