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TANAISTE FRANCES FITZGERALD has resigned.

She informed her Cabinet colleagues this morning, ahead of a planned motion of no confidence by Fianna Fáil tonight.

It follows days of political turmoil, a fresh trawl of Department of Justice documents and several private meetings between Taoiseach Leo Varadkar and Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin.

Fitzgerald has confirmed she will still allow her name go forward for the Dublin Mid-West selection convention. The Fine Gael meeting takes place tonight.

Here’s how the day’s events played out:

The Taoiseach Leo Varadkar and Fianna Fáil leader Micheal Martin are going to meet again this morning. It’s understood that both are still keen to avoid an election.

We want to hear your comments on this so please get in touch in the comments section below.

Sinn Féin deputy leader Mary Lou McDonald told Morning Ireland on RTÉ Radio 1 that Fitzgerald needs to go.

I just think that the Tanaiste needs to go. It’s utterly farcical to say that we should wait for the tribunal, of course Francis Fitzgerald will have to give testimony to the tribunal and others within the department.

“In fact it seems to me that there’s now another dimension to this and there needs to be an investigation, whether through the tribunal or separately, as to how a disclosure order was not complied with. That’s a most serious matter.”

Labour’s Alan Kelly has said the latest emails make Fitzgerald’s position untenable.

Kelly is critical of the current Justice Minister Charlie Flanagan and says the Justice Department refused to answer parliamentary questions he asked from 27 October.

Kelly also says an inquiry needs to be launched as to why these emails were not provided to the tribunal in the first place.

“The evidence that has been produced in the last 24 hours shows that there was an awareness level in relation of what was going on in relation to a legal strategy and that to me means her position is absolutely untenable.

The Minister needs to resign or else the Taoiseach needs to act. It is absolute total and utter madness if we have an election now.

That sentiment has been echoed by former Justice Minister Alan Shatter. He sent a tweet this morning that an election would be “total madness”.

It has just turned 8am, it looks certain now that if Francis Fitzgerald does not resign by 8pm, there will be a General Election.

RTÉ is reporting that the Independent Alliance is going to meet with Taoiseach Leo Varadkar this morning before the cabinet meets.

Up until now the alliance has supported the Tánaiste.

Fine Gael Senator Jerry Buttimer has said the emails shed no new light.

He also said the Tanaiste wasn’t aware of the strategy to undermine Morris McCabe, despite being sent an email about an aggressive approach.

It’s aggressive questioning in a media query, it’s not a statement of fact and we’re prejudging the tribunal outcome on the basis of a question. It’s an aggressive question in a media query.

He said the Tanaiste was advised not to interfere, adding, “We either allow for the tribunal to do it’s work or we just don’t bother.”

90384931_90384931 Source: Leah Farrell via Photocall Ireland

Health Minister Simon Harris said:

This country doesn’t need a General Election … it’s a day for cool heads, a day for calm reflection and we need to try and have a situation where government can continue with the very big jobs at hand.

The Taoiseach has now arrived for today’s Cabinet briefing and that meeting with the Independent Alliance.

Fianna Fáil’s Timmy Dooley said he learned about the additional emails last night and that Fitzgerald’s position is now untenable.

He said her position that she wasn’t aware of the strategy “doesn’t hold water”.

He also said it has gone beyond the Tanaiste coming into the Dáil to answer questions.

What we need now is for the wise heads in Fine Gael to get together.

90321527_90321527 Source: Sam Boal/Photocall Ireland

RTÉ has reported that Fine Gael TD Hildegarde Naughton has said it’s very difficult for the Tanaiste to remain in office.

It’s understood that she is the first Fine Gael TD to break the ranks publicly.

Naughton’s opinion is at odds with the sentiment displayed by Simon Harris who said the Tánaiste should “certainly not” resign.

He said the controversy should be dealt with by the Disclosures Tribunal.

Greencore chief executive Patrick Coveney – the brother of Minister for Foreign Affairs Simon Coveney – has said he doesn’t think a general election before Christmas would be good for business.

He told Morning Ireland on RTÉ Radio 1 that an election could weaken the Government’s ability to represent Ireland’s interests in relation to Brexit.

So to recap – both Sinn Féin and the Labour Party are calling on Leo Varadkar to sack Tanaiste Frances Fitzgerald.

Fianna Fáil says the only way to avoid an election is for the Tanaiste to accept political responsibility.

The Taoiseach is still standing behind Fitzgerald with Health Minister Simon Harris telling reporters this morning that the Tánaiste should “certainly not” resign.

However, Fine Gael TD Hildegarde Naughton has publicly said it’s very difficult for Fitzgerald to remain in office.

The Independent Alliance is set to meet the Taoiseach ahead of this morning’s Cabinet meeting.

Up until now the alliance has supported the Tánaiste and it’s reported that a change in stance is not expected at this stage.

Minister for Transport Shane Ross and Minister of State Finian McGrath are now inside Government Buildings.

The countdown continues with just 10 hours now left for Fine Gael and Fianna Fail to reach a deal to avoid a Christmas election.

The Fianna Fáil motion of no confidence in the Tánaiste is due to be tabled at 8pm tonight.

Arriving at Government Buildings, Transport Minister Shane Ross told reporters that the situation is “very grave” and Minister Finian McGrath said they were going to make their views known to the Taoiseach.

The members of the Independent Alliance wouldn’t say if they would be calling on the Tánaiste to resign.

Members of the Independent Alliance are now meeting with the Taoiseach. They spoke to reporters on the way into Government Buildings.

Minister for Transport Shane Ross said, “The situation is grave, we want to consult with our Independence Alliance colleagues.

We’re going to make our views known when we get in there, of course we’re against an election. We don’t want an election.

Minister of State Finian McGrath said, “The situation is very grave but we’ll be making our views known to the Taoiseach and the Cabinet this morning and that’s all we want to say for the moment.”

When asked if Frances Fitzgerald should resign, he said, “No comment”.

Members of the Independence Alliance Minister for Transport Shane Ross with Minister of State for Disability Finian McGrath talking to the media on their way into cabinet.

28/11/2017 Cabinet Meetings Source: Sam Boal

It’s reported that a meeting of the Cabinet has now begun and that a meeting of Fine Gael ministers that was scheduled for earlier this morning didn’t take place.

A senior source has told our political reporter that the Taoiseach told the Tanaiste to consider the issue overnight.

A photo of the pair in happier times launching the Paternity Leave Bill on Father’s Day, in Farmleigh House, Dublin.

19/6/2016. Paternity Leave Bill. L to R. Taniste a

Some sources are reporting that Fitzgerald has maintained that she will not be resigning and would need to be sacked, but this is just speculation at this stage.

Hugh O’Connell – formerly of this parish – has told Today with Sean O’Rourke on RTÉ Radio 1 that a source has revealed to him that the Independent Alliance are not backing Fitzgerald.

Our political reporter Christina Finn says some members of the parliamentary party are “livid” with Varadkar and that they were sent out to defend the Tánaiste over the weekend.

Fine Gael TDs are not happy with how their leader has dealt with the situation.

It’s understood that Varadkar had read the thread of emails over the weekend, ahead of their release yesterday evening.

One minister has confirmed to TheJournal.ie that Tánaiste Frances Fitzgerald is to resign. She made her intentions known at the Cabinet meeting this morning – which is now over.

Her resignation is expected to be announced in the Dáil later this afternoon.

Her resignation comes in the final hours, with the government on the brink of collapse. A motion of no confidence from Fianna Fáil was scheduled for 8pm.

This is now set to be withdrawn.

Now that the Tánaiste is to step aside, the focus is already shifting on to the current Justice Minister Charlie Flanagan.

Dara Calleary of Fianna Fáil has been speaking to RTÉ’s News at One. He’s described it as a “sad day” for the Tánaiste and that it’s not about “looking for scalps”.

Asked whether Charlie Flanagan, the current Justice Minister, has questions to answer on the email issue Calleary said that he did, and that he expected the Minister would answer those questions in the Dáil.

Fianna Fáil will not be submitting a motion of no confidence in Flanagan, he said.

“We’re not about showdowns, we’re not about drama,” Calleary told the News at One.

He said the confidence and supply agreement had been “tested to the limit” in the last few days but that it wasn’t about declaring winners.

Clare Daly of Independents 4 Change has also been speaking to News at One.

The Dublin North TD, who was one of the first politicians to take up Maurice McCabe’s case, says she’s been “gobsmacked” by developments over the last few days.

Clare Daly says the political relationship between FF and FG is “absolutely over” and that she expects an election in the spring.

The pre-Christmas election is off the cards in the wake of Frances Fitzgerald’s resignation – but the fallout from this crisis will continue.

Leo Varadkar will be on his feet in half an hour for what’s likely to be a tense Leaders’ Questions session.

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Just to confirm – the Fianna Fáil motion of no confidence will not go ahead tonight in any form, nor will Sinn Féin’s tomorrow.

Here’s the full statement from Frances Fitzgerald: 

Today I made the decision to tender my resignation to the Taoiseach, stepping-down with immediate effect as Tánaiste and Minister for Business, Enterprise and Innovation. It has been the greatest honour of my life to serve in Government, but I believe it is necessary to take this decision to avoid an unwelcome and potentially destabilising general election at this historically critical time.

Throughout my career I have always sought to act with integrity and responsibility, and that is why I have decided on this occasion to put the national interest ahead of my own personal reputation. I have always believed in fairness and equality and these principles have guided my work as Minister for Children and Youth Affairs, as Minister for Justice and Equality, and now as Minister for Business, Enterprise and Innovation.

I would like to thank the Taoiseach for showing the same courage and determination to protect my good name that he displayed three years ago when he stood-up and defended the reputation of Maurice McCabe. What I admire most about the Taoiseach is that he has always believed in doing what was right – not what was popular or politically expedient. I will always be grateful for his confidence and support and for giving me the opportunity to serve in a Government that is making a real difference in people’s lives at a critical time in our history.

However, I decided that my continuation in office risks destabilising that good work, and so I have decided to step-down so that this work may continue and the country can be spared an unnecessary election. It will also allow me to vindicate my good name at the Charleton Tribunal, without causing any further distraction to the work of the Government. I have always believed in due process and I believe that in the current situation that is becoming increasingly difficult for me. I acted correctly in difficult circumstances and, in fact, did everything that I could to support the search for truth and protect whistleblowers.

I would like to thank all those who have worked with me over the years and I am so grateful for the incredible support I received from family, friends, supporters, staff, and my constituents in Dublin Mid-West. And I look forward to continuing to serve all the people of Dublin Mid-West.

I have no further comment to make.

The Green Party has welcomed Fitzgerald’s resignation – but leader Eamon Ryan thinks Charlie Flanagan should leave his Justice post. 

“We welcome the resignation of the Tánaiste Frances Fitzgerald. We said from the start that now wasn’t the time for an election, and we hope that this averts the prospect of an election before Christmas, with the country facing vital Brexit negotiations,” Ryan said in a statement.

“However, there are still serious questions to be answered here. When the Taoiseach is amending his cabinet to select a new Minister for Business, he should go further and ensure that the Department of Justice starts off in a new direction under a new Minister. This crisis was centred not just on what happened back in May 2015 but what the Department of Justice was doing in recent weeks. Minister Flanagan took the same approach as his predecessor in overseeing a Department which held back relevant information. He too should step aside.”

Green Party Chair Councillor Roderic O’Gorman added:

We want the role of the Department of Justice to be included in the work of the Charlton Tribunal as we suggested in an amendment last February this year which was voted down by both Fianna Fail and Fine Gael.  We also support the break-up of the Department with Home Affairs, and Security and Justice issues being separated to help create a new culture within the institution.

Screenshot 2017-11-28 at 14.00.00

Political reporter Christina Finn here now to take you through Leaders’ Questions.

The Dáil chamber is beginning to fill up now following a very eventful morning.

TDs around the corridors appear to be relieved that an election has been averted at the final hour. Many have been critical of Fitzgerald, stating that she could have controlled the situation more and left on her own time – while now it appears she was pushed.

The Taoiseach will now read a statement.

He says he has accepted Fitzgerald’s resignation with “regret” and has decided to take up her portfolio as Business, Enterprise and Innovation minister.

He says she was the most “reforming” Minister for Justice. He says in the last few days there has been a drip of information and there was a “feeding frenzy” where all the facts remained unclear.

He says she had no hand, act or part in the legal strategy. He says her knowledge of the information was limited. He says her good name will be vindicated by the tribunal.

Fitzgerald has been a pioneer in women’s rights, says the Taoiseach.

He says recent events have uncovered serious issues and systemic problems in the Department of Justice.

He says reforms will now be accelerated. A review of the culture will take place, as well as a review of the relationship between the department and the gardaí. He also wants to know why the department gave him misinformation and says Parliamentary Questions will be answered as fully and openly as possible.

Micheál Martin is up and he says there was a dismissive attitude to Dáil members who asked legitimate questions about what was being hidden.

The Taoiseach says he is “not happy at all” at how the last number of weeks have played out. He says arrangements are being made for the current Justice Minister Charlie Flanagan to make a statement to the House and to “apologise for the failure of his department”.

He says Flanagan will also offer further assurances that questions from now on will be answered properly.

If the emails were out ten days ago, he says, Tánaiste would not have had to resign

“We didnt have to end up in the situation we are in today,” says the Taoiseach, pointing out that had questions been answered, this “sorry set of affairs” could have been avoided.

He said had questions been answered, the minister might not have had to step aside, something he said was her own decision.

He says Fianna Fáil acted in good faith over the weekend in their discussions. He says he regrets that it resulted in the resignation of a good woman.

He says the minister and her family have ended up on the front pages on the papers, something he says he did not want.

The Taoiseach says a hotline is to be set up if they are not happy with the answers they are getting from the department.

All past PQs relating to McCabe will be reviewed and new information put on record where needed.

“I am prepared to shine the brightest of lights in the darkest of places.”

Mary Lou McDonald says he put the interests of Fine Gael before the country and was the first test of his time as leader. She says he failed, dismally.

She said the department’s withholding of documents from the tribunal is a criminal offence.

How did he [Charlie Flanagan] allow that to happen, she asks.

The Taoiseach says McDonald misled the Dáil by stating that the emails were sent to members of the gardaí. He says for SF it is just about point scoring and getting ahead.

He says that is not how political parties should operate.

Varadkar says he wants the tribunal to be allowed to do its work. It will be interesting to see what the outcome of the tribunal.

He says he does not know why the emails were not provided to the tribunal when they should have been. He says the only reason they came to light is because he ordered a trawl of the department last week.

The Taoiseach says he never wants to be put in the position again where he is given the wrong information by a department. He assures the Dáil that he will be holding officials to account.

Varadkar is commissioning an external inquiry, to report before Christmas, on how latest emails were not sent to the Charleton Tribunal.

He says he wants to know what was behind that – though he says we may never find out.

Speaking about Flanagan, he says it is of deep regret that he didn’t see the document for another week – if he had, we might be in a different situation than we are in today.

Richard Boyd Barrett says there is now relief that the public won’t be asked to go to the polls in the run up to Christmas.

He criticises that he protected the minister right up to the last minute, even though he knew over the weekend that she had more information than had previously been stated,.

“This places never ceases to amaze me,” he says.

Screenshot 2017-11-28 at 14.35.27

A sombre looking Charlie Flanagan this morning who has been heavily criticised by the Taoiseach in the Dáil today over the failure of his department.

Richard Boyd Barrett says he tried to get special Dáil time set aside today for further questions over the email scandal – but he says Fianna Fáil is in a “collusion of silence” to stop it.

He says it was arranged at the Business Committee earlier.

The Taoiseach says it is not the first time Boyd Barrett’s questions have been confused.

“I didn’t request that I did not do Leaders’ Questions today,” he adds.

I want to assure the deputy it will never be my intention to plunge this country into an unnecessary general election… I did everything I could this weekend,” he says.

“I did not seek it [Fitzgerald's resignation] – she did it of her own volition,” he adds. He says she did it for the good of the country.

Boyd Barrett says the government are trying to run away from answering questions about the scandal.

The people didn’t want an election inflicted on them over Christmas, but he says that is not an excuse not to answer the questions.

“The legitimacy of this government is shredded,” he proclaims.

The Taoiseach says Flanagan will be making a statement and he will answer questions.

“I was the one to order the trawl of documents as I had to come in here twice to correct the record,” he says, adding that it was he who put them into the public domain yesterday.

Had that happened a number of weeks ago by the department, “we wouldn’t be in this sorry situation” he adds.

Screenshot 2017-11-28 at 14.44.47

I have no interest in kicking you or Frances Fitzgerald, says Mick Wallace.
The Independents 4 Change TD says listening to what is going on in Leinster House is “soul destroying”.

Since 2012, he says he has been trying to raise the issue of the the toxicity within the gardaí and the department of justice.

“Is there any appetite to do things differently,” he pleads.

“We no more represent the people in here,” says Wallace, in a defeated tone.

Where is the appetite for the truth, he asks.

“I am as totally dissatisfied as much as you are – you may not believe it,” the Taoiseach tells Wallace.

“This is not the way I want the parliament to operate,” he adds.

He says he does not want things to continue on the way they have been going the last few years, highlighting that it is he who spoke up for Maurice McCabe a number of years ago.

He says as a doctor, he knows that diagnosis is a a damn sight easier than surgery.

Identifying problems is one thing he says, but tackling it and solving the issue is another.

Here is the Taoiseach’s statement in full on the resignation of Frances Fitzgerald:

This morning, Frances Fitzgerald came to me to offer her resignation as Tánaiste and Minister for Business, Enterprise and Innovation. She is doing so to avoid an unnecessary and early General Election that could have left the country without a functioning government and Oireachtas for several months at a crucial time for Ireland.

Over the next few weeks and months, the government will need to focus on the Brexit negotiations, both phase one and phase two. We have a Finance Bill and Appropriations Bill to enact. Legislation to pass for public sector pay restoration and pension and social welfare increases. We also have the important work of the committee on the 8th amendment to complete paving the way for a referendum next year. All of these would fall in the event of a general election.

The work of the government and the parliament must not be interrupted during this important period. So, it is with deep regret that I have accepted her resignation.

It is my strong view that a good woman is leaving office without getting a full and fair hearing.

Frances has been an exemplary member of Government and a loyal colleague. She established the Department of Children and Tusla, changed the constitution twice to enshrine in it children’s rights and the right to marriage equality. She was one of the most reforming Ministers for Justice we have ever had setting up the Independent Policing Authority chaired by Josephine Feehily, the Legal Services Regulatory Authority and bringing in a raft of reforming legislation including the Sexual Offences Act. She always supported whistle-blowers, and enshrined a code of ethics in An Garda Síochána to protect them.

In the past few days a drip-drip of information may have made certain things seem greater than they are. There was a feeding frenzy, and it became impossible for her to get a fair hearing based on the full facts. I hope that will change in the period ahead.

While all of the facts still remain unclear, there are a few things that we do know. Frances had no hand act or part in the former Commissioner’s legal strategy, did not devise or guide it in any way. She was advised by her own officials that she had no function in the matter. The Attorney General has since confirmed this advice and further advised that she would have been acting improperly and inappropriately if she had sought to interfere with the work of the O’Higgins Commission.

We know from the e-mails, that Frances Fitzgerald had no knowledge of it until the Commission’s hearing were already underway and that her knowledge of the detail was limited.

I hope calm, measured reading of the evidence will show that the Tánaiste acted appropriately, and I hope the Charleton Tribunal will establish this conclusively in the weeks ahead, and that she will have her good name vindicated. I expect her to continue to play a full role in political and public life including at the highest level.

Throughout her career, the Tánaiste has been a champion of women’s rights, and equal rights, she has been a pioneer when it comes to supporting children, and fighting against all forms of inequality and injustice.

The events of the past few days have exposed major problems once again within a dysfunctional Department of Justice, including the way important emails were not found and therefore not sent on to the Charleton Tribunal during discovery. I am directing that there will be an external inquiry into that to report before Christmas. Systemic problems within the Department were identified in the Toland Report. Minister Fitzgerald began the process of implementing the Report, and this has continued under her successor Charlie Flanagan. These reforms will now be accelerated, and the government is planning radical action to restore public confidence in the Department of Justice.

An independent and change implementation group will be established to:

a) assess progress in implementing the recommendations of the Toland Report;

b) review the culture of the Department, make recommendations for change, particularly in the light of evidence of a continued siloed and secretive culture and a failure to provide accurate information to me and the Oireachtas;

c) examine in particular, the relationship between the Department and the Gardaí, to ensure that the relationship is appropriately structured, is understood in both organisations and operates in such a way as to ensure accountability and better performance;

d) draw on the expertise of the Policing Authority in conducting its work;

The Government will in the coming days provide further details on this. The Minister and Secretary General of the Department for Justice & Equality will ensure that all future PQs are replied to as fully and openly as possible, subject to Dáil Standing Orders and the law. All recent PQs asked by any Deputy relating to Maurice McCabe will be reviewed and it will be ensured that they have been answered as fully and openly as possible. Any additional relevant additional information will be provided to Deputies as quickly as possible.

These events have reminded us of some of the ways Maurice McCabe was undermined, when he shone a light in some very dark places. As Taoiseach I am determined to shine the brightest of lights into the darkest of places, so that we arrive at the truth and have true accountability.

I continue to believe that the Tánaiste acted throughout in a way that was appropriate. But these are matters that will now be investigated and adjudicated upon by a tribunal.

In the meantime, the Government will continue to work for the good of the country. We will focus on the challenge of Brexit, and deal with the many other problems we are facing. We will not be distracted as we strive to do what is in the best interests of all the people.

The news that Frances Fitzgerald has resigned is making international headlines this afternoon, such as this story by the BBC.

Screenshot 2017-11-28 at 15.08.05

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