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Taoiseach Leo Varadkar Eamonn Farrell
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Leo Varadkar's trip to Africa set to be cancelled as political storm escalates

Varadkar is scheduled to travel to Mali and Coast Ivory next week.

TAOISEACH LEO VARADKAR’S trip to Africa will most likely be cancelled due to the escalating political storm involving Tánaiste Frances Fitzgerald.

Yesterday, Sinn Féin submitted a motion of no confidence in the Tánaiste – due to be held on Wednesday – with some speculating that it could trigger a winter general election.

Fianna Fáil’s Justice Spokesperson Jim O’Callaghan said yesterday that his party could not vote confidence in the Tánaiste. His party is due to submit their own motion of no confidence before 11am this morning.

A Fine Gael parliamentary party took place this evening at 10pm at which Varadkar and his colleagues gave enthusiastic support to Fitzgerald.

A unanimous motion in support of the Tánaiste was passed at the meeting with Varadkar saying she was facing “ a trumped up charge from the opposition”.

Fianna Fáil are due to hold a parliamentary party meeting at 9.30am.

For the past week, a row has been rumbling on over an email about Garda whistleblower Maurice McCabe and the legal strategy the former Garda Commissioner Nóirín O’Sullivan was pursuing against him.

Yesterday during Leaders’ Questions, Fitzgerald was staunch in the defence of her actions that it would have been illegal for her to intervene in any way.

Motion of no confidence 

This whole debacle has thrown a spanner in the works for trip the Taoiseach is due to make on Monday.

Varadkar will have to remain at home to vote confidence in his Tánaiste next week if a motion goes ahead.

The Taoiseach is scheduled to travel to Mali to visit members of the Irish Defence Forces serving with the EU Training Mission to Mali (EUTM).

Twenty personnel from the Irish Defence Forces serve with EUTM, which is a training mission to improve the capacity of the Malian Armed Forces.

From a security perspective, it is believed to be one of the most challenging missions that the Irish Defence Forces are involved in.

African Union and European Union

On Wednesday, the Taoiseach is scheduled to travel to Ivory Coast to attend the Summit between the African Union and European Union.

It’s understood the Taoiseach has 12 bilateral meetings lined up with key European leaders, including Jean-Claude Juncker, President of the European Commission.

A discussion on Ireland holding a seat on the UN Security Council is also up for discussion at the summit, something the government has been lobbying for.

A government source said these meetings could prove vital in rallying support for the crunch European summit on Brexit on 15 December.

While domestically the Taoiseach must deal with the threat of his government falling, the issue of Brexit, the border and the stalemate in the talks is also pressing.

The African trip is understood to be a key time for the Taoiseach to meet with influential European leaders and build allies. The UK is pushing for the Brexit talks to move on to trade issues, before the matter of Northern Ireland and its border is dealt with.

The Taoiseach has made it clear that he wants detailed proposals on how the border issue will be solved from the British before the talks proceed – with the European negotiator Michel Barnier backing Ireland’s position.

It’s understood such high-profile European meetings, particularly with Juncker, could be key in ensuring support for Ireland to hold up the talks until the border issue is sorted out.

With Fianna Fáil stating it no longer has confidence in Fitzgerald and that it will not be voting confidence in her, the ball is firmly in the Taoiseach’s court.

Options open to him are to allow the motions to proceed which will trigger a general election or ask the Tánaiste to step down.

Varadkar is not willing to push Fitzgerald and the Tánaiste appears to have no intention in stepping aside. An election in December or January is looking all the more likely.

Read: Fianna Fáil: ‘We won’t be voting confidence in the Tánaiste’>

Read: Sinn Féin submits motion of no confidence in Tanaiste>

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