Martin and Varadkar to meet for crunch talks to avoid election

Martin and Varadkar to meet for crunch talks to avoid election
Micheál Martin: "We will engage over the weekend to find a solution."

MICHEÁL Martin has confirmed he will continue to meet with the Taoiseach over the coming days to resolve the stand-off over Tánaiste Frances Fitzgerald.

Both sides are desperate to avoid an election, which would likely fall between December 15 and 23.

The country remains on the brink of an election, with Fianna Fáil's no-confidence vote set to bring an end to the uneasy alliance between the party and Fine Gael.

Mr Martin told the Evening Echo that he will work with the Taoiseach to stop the country going to the polls but said his position is clear.

"We will engage on a number of occasions over the weekend," he said.

"Fianna Fáil is not looking for a General Election. The Taoiseach has told me he is not looking for an election, but the only way we can avoid it is if Frances Fitzgerald goes. In the meantime, we will continue to try to find a solution to the matter over the weekend."

His colleague Michael McGrath said the future of the government 'all hinges on the Tánaiste.'

Michael McGrath: "The ball is in the government's court."
Michael McGrath: "The ball is in the government's court."

"There is always hope that the election can be avoided but there is only so much we can take," he said.

"We have been honourable in the agreement so far, passing two budgets. We would have liked to have made all three but that all hinges on the resignation of the Tánaiste."

"The ball is in the government's court," Mr McGrath said.

"There is no appetite for an election but this is about the catastrophic handling of the McCabe affair. The State is, through inaction, complicit in this campaign, it is not about an email."

Donnchadh Ó Laoghaire: "There doesn't have to be an election. Either the government or Frances Fitzgerald can do the right thing."
Donnchadh Ó Laoghaire: "There doesn't have to be an election. Either the government or Frances Fitzgerald can do the right thing."

Sinn Féin Justice Spokesperson Donnchadh Ó Laoghaire has moved to calm fears, though, claiming that the country is not yet at the point of no return.

"There doesn't have to be an election," the Cork South-Central TD said.

"Either the government or Frances Fitzgerald can do the right thing. It is not difficult or complicated. Sinn Féin is not looking for an election, but we are always ready."

Mr Ó Laoghaire raised concerns that the core matter has been lost amid the election furore, though.

He said, "Ultimately, Fine Gael are dismissing the issue and that is wrong. This is about the failure of a government minister to protect the reputation of a man whose reputation was repeatedly the target of campaigns to destroy. The Minister was aware and she did nothing."

All indications nationally point to the dissolution of the confidence-and-supply arrangement, regardless of whether the Tánaiste tenders her resignation or not. It is just a matter of time according to sources connected to both parties, who claim that proposing the motion has eroded the trust between the parties.

Mr Ó Laoghaire hit out at Fianna Fáil, claiming that the party was 'just looking for an excuse' to collapse the government and trigger an election.

Tim Lombard: "Frances Fitzgerald has done nothing wrong."
Tim Lombard: "Frances Fitzgerald has done nothing wrong."

Fine Gael senator Tim Lombard hit back, though, claiming there is a way back for both parties.

"It is a troubling week but if we were to come back from the brink, there has to be a concerted effort from both sides, but I believe it could happen," said the senator, who added that he will seek a nomination in Cork South West in the event of an election.

Mr Lombard doubled down on the party's support for the Tánaiste, though.

"She won't and she shouldn't have to. She has done nothing wrong," he said.

The motions of no confidence have toughened the party's resolved, Mr Lombard added.

"We don't need an election but if we are pushed into it, we are pushed into it."

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