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Fianna Fáil issue Christmas deadline for confidence and supply agreement

The crunch confidence and supply deal talks must end by Christmas to allow the public to know exactly where the Government stands in the lead up to any no deal Brexit crisis, Fianna Fáil has said.

The party's justice spokesperson Jim O'Callaghan confirmed the de facto deadline before formal talks begin next week on whether the deal can be renewed.

Fianna Fail justice spokesperson Jim O'Callaghan

Speaking to reporters after Taoiseach Leo Varadkar and Fianna Fáil leader Micheal Martin held their first face to face talks on the confidence and supply deal on Monday night, Mr O'Callaghan said clarity must be brought to the Government's future.

Asked if deal renewal talks need to conclude by Christmas, in part because of the ongoing questions surrounding the risk of a no deal Brexit, he said it is important people will know where they stand by this date.

"I would hope so, that we would know by then.

[quote]As you know, I was part of the talks [which set up the three budget confidence and supply deal after the February 2016 general election] at Trinity college.[/quote]

"They went on for six weeks or so, maybe seven weeks, of all our lives down there.

"I would hope this process wouldn't take as long and that by Christmas we would be aware of whether it's going to be renewed or not," Mr O'Callaghan said, adding he would like to be part of Fianna Fáil's talks team if asked.

Speaking during the same media briefing, the party's Brexit spokesperson Lisa Chambers the genuine concern over the Brexit negotiations means it is vital there is "stability here in this island, we need stability in Leinster House".

Noting the ongoing EU-UK talks taking place, and the central role Ireland plays in the negotiations, she added "there is no doubt in my mind London and Brussels is watching us so we need to ensure we do present that united front".

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Mr O'Callaghan and Ms Chambers' comments came after Mr Varadkar and Mr Martin held their first face to face talks on whether to renew the confidence and supply deal at Government Buildings on Monday night.

It is understood both party leaders agreed to appoint four-TD strong negotiating teams by the end of this week, before full-scale negotiations begin early next week.

While Mr Varadkar has said he wants to see talks end by the Halloween break and would like a new deal to last until 2020, sources close to Mr Martin have insisted a Christmas timeframe is more likely and that his party would like a one year deal extension.

The latest Ipsos/MRBI opinion poll published on Tuesday morning placed Fine Gael on 33% and Fianna Fáil on 25%, figures which are respectively up 2% and down 1% on the previous poll by the same group.

Speaking to reporters, Labour leader Brendan Howlin - whose own party is languishing on just 4% according to the Ipsos/MRBI poll - said: "bluntly, I would believe there should be a general election right now".

He added Ireland needs to have "a sustainable Government and we need to know what this looks like", saying that due to Brexit "I'm of the view we need to have a Government that can speak with authority".