• MySTV

Irish government in talks to stave off Christmas election

Police whistleblower scandal threatens agreement between Fine Gael and Fianna Fail.

Tanaiste Frances Fitzgerald.
Tanaiste Frances Fitzgerald. PA

The Irish government faces a pivotal day of talks as they seek to avoid a snap Christmas election over the handling of a police whistleblower.

Further talks over the affair are to continue between Taoiseach Leo Varadkar and Micheal Martin, leader of opposition party Fianna Fail, amid furore over the treatment of a Garda sergeant.

A motion of no confidence motion in Tanaiste Frances Fitzgerald remains on the table over her knowledge of an aggressive legal strategy against the respected officer during a private inquiry.

The scandal now threatens the fragile agreement which sees Mr Martin prop up Mr Varadkar's minority Fine Gael Government.

Not only that, but the fallout is casting a long shadow over December's key Brexit summit where the future of the border between the Irish Republic and Northern Ireland could be determined.

In the hours before the no confidence measure is to be debated in the Dail parliament, renewed calls were made for Mrs Fitzgerald to resign or be sacked over a series of emails dating back to 2015.

They showed she was aware of the controversial legal strategy to target Garda Sergeant Maurice McCabe at a private judge-led inquiry into his claims of wrongdoing in the force.

The release of emails on Monday night undermined efforts by the Taoiseach and Mr Martin to reach a compromise over the row.

Mrs Fitzgerald, who was justice minister in 2015, said last week that she only learned in 2016 of the approach being taken by lawyers for the then Garda commissioner. The series of emails contradicts that.

It sparked deep unease among the minority Government's backbenchers and renewed demands from the opposition for her to step down.

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar.
Taoiseach Leo Varadkar. PA

If the minority Government loses a no confidence vote in the Tanaiste it effectively sounds the death knell for the fragile confidence and supply agreement which has seen the opposition Fianna Fail party prop up the Fine Gael minority Government since the 2016 election left a hung parliament.

Sinn Féin deputy leader Mary Lou McDonald attacked Mrs Fitzgerald over her approach to information about how Sergeant McCabe was to be targeted at the private inquiry.

"What is at play here is an absolute and utter dereliction of duty," she told RTE Radio.

"If she won't go then the Taoiseach needs to measure up and demonstrate some level of leadership and judgment and he needs to relieve her of her duties."

In the wake of the emails being released Mrs Fitzgerald took to Twitter to insist she could not have intervened in a strategy being employed by Garda lawyers.

But questions are also being asked as to why the Department of Justice had not already released the tranche of emails to the Disclosures Tribunal - the public judge-led inquiry into the treatment of Sergeant McCabe.

Health Minister Simon Harris continued to stand foursquare behind the Tanaiste but said it was unacceptable that all relevant documents had not been handed over.

"This country does not need a general election. Everybody needs to step back from the brink. It's a day for cool heads," he said.

Talks will resume between the Taoiseach and Mr Martin later, with the Cabinet also meeting and Mr Varadkar due to take to his feet in the Dail around 2pm when the affair will be front and centre.

The crisis came to a head in the last week. It had been bubbling away for a month or so after Labour Party TD Alan Kelly began asking questions of the Tanaiste and current Justice Minister Charlie Flanagan over who knew what and when about the aggressive legal strategy being employed by Garda lawyers.

Fianna Fail's Timmy Dooley said that the emails showed Mrs Fitzgerald's position in Cabinet was not tenable.

"Her position that she was not aware at the time doesn't hold water. She has to accept political accountability," he said.

The email trawl released by the Department of Justice on Monday night showed a Department of Justice civil servant wrote that the minister had "noted" emails about the course being taken by the lawyers for the Garda.

In a further two emails it emerged Mrs Fitzgerald also received advice in July 2015 on what lines to take in public if asked about Sergeant McCabe.

One account. All of STV.

This field is required. That doesn't look like a valid e-mail format, please check. That e-mail's already in our system. Please try again.
Forgot password?
This field is required. This must be at least 6 characters long. Did you enter your details correctly?
If you've forgotten your details then use the 'Forgot password?' link.
Need to reset your password?

We'll send a link to reset your password to

We've sent you details on how to reset your password

Please check your email and follow the instructions.

Forgotten your email address?

Have you forgotten the email address that you previously joined with? Don't worry, by emailing enquiries@stv.tv we can help.

One account. All of STV.

This field is required. Please enter at least 2 characters
This field is required. Please enter at least 2 characters
This must be at least 6 characters long.
This field is required. This must be at least 6 characters long.
You must be over 16 to join STV.
This field is required. This doesn't appear to be a valid date
We need this to check that you live in an STV region.
This field is required. This doesn't appear to be a valid postcode
Would you like us to email you about our great shows and services from time to time?
We'll only send emails we think you'll like (see example) based on information you have supplied and shows you have watched on STV Player. For details on emails and advertising, see our STV & You page.
Would you like to receive emails from the Scottish Children's Lottery about draws, instant games and competitions?
We support the Scottish Children's Lottery (SCL), which is managed by our colleagues at STV ELM Ltd. You can find out more about the SCL on its website, including its Privacy Policy.

By continuing you agree to our Terms of Use, and understand our Privacy and Cookie Policies.

Upload Profile Picture

Please make sure your image is under 2mb in size and a valid JPG, PNG or GIF.

Are you sure?

Unfortunately, you'll be unable to access our premium content. We’ll be sorry to see you go, but if you change your mind you can rejoin us at any time.

Please verify your STV account

Please verify your STV account using the email we sent you. If you have lost the email, we can send you another one, just click the button below.


We've sent you a new verification email.
Please check your email and follow the instructions to verify your account.

Welcome to STV
Thanks for joining us.


Sorry, you must be at least 12 years old to place a vote for your Real Hero.

Please review our Voting Terms of Use for more information.


Sorry! It seems that you are using a browser that is incompatible with our voting service.

To register your vote please copy the below URL in to your regular mobile browser. We recommend Google Chrome, or Safari.



Sorry, you seem to have already voted in this category.

Thanks for voting

Now share your vote with friends on your social network

Share on twitter Share on facebook

Cast your vote

Please register or sign in to continue.

Cast your vote

This field is required. This doesn't appear to be a valid date

Cast your vote

Please fill out this form to cast your vote. As you are under 16 years old you will not create an STV account. Why do we need these details?

This field is required. Please enter at least 2 characters
This field is required. Please enter at least 2 characters
This field is required. That doesn't look like a valid e-mail format, please check.
Location This field is required.
Parental Consent This field is required.

That's you. All that's left is to click the 'Submit Vote' button below. By doing so, you confirm that you and your parent or guardian have read and accept our Voting Terms of Use, Privacy Policy and Cookie policy, and that the details you have entered are correct. We'll look after them as carefully as if they were our own.