Varadkar and Martin in fresh talks to avoid Irish election

Frances Fitzgerald Image copyright RTE
Image caption Frances Fitzgerald was Irish minister for justice during a police whistleblower controversy

The Irish prime minister and the leader of the main opposition party are due to meet on Monday to hold talks aimed at avoiding a general election.

Taoiseach (Irish prime minster) Leo Varadkar and Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin met over the weekend.

Their meeting on Sunday night has been described as "constructive".

The crisis was sparked by opposition parties seeking the resignation of the deputy prime minister over her handling of a police whistleblower controversy.

Sinn Féin and Fianna Fáil have tabled separate motions of no confidence in tánaiste Frances Fitzgerald.

Mr Varadkar has said he would support Ms Fitzgerald and hoped that talks with Mr Martin could resolve the issue.

Fianna Fáil's no-confidence motions threatens its confidence-and-supply arrangement with the Fine Gael-led minority government.

Despite positive signals emerging from the weekend talks neither party has changed its core position, with Fianna Fáil still seeking the resignation of tánaiste, and Fine Gael resisting this.

Image copyright PA
Image caption Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin said the situation would be resolved if Ms Fitzgerald resigned

A review of documents held by the Republic's Department of Justice relating to the controversy will be completed by lunchtime on Monday and the documents sent to the Disclosures Tribunal.

Sources have told Irish national broadcaster RTÉ News that the documents would be made available to the opposition parties and also published later on Monday.

The Disclosures Tribunal was set up in February to investigate the alleged smear campaign against Garda (Irish police) sergeant Maurice McCabe.

Analysis: Shane Harrison, BBC News NI Dublin correspondent

The garda whistle-blower affair has already been partly responsible for the former Taoiseach Enda Kenny, former Justice minster Alan Shatter and two garda commissioners moving on.

Despite Sunday night's meeting no real progress has been made between Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael on the core issue - the fate of Tánaiste Frances Fitzgerald.

Taoiseach Leo Varardkar is standing by her - saying she has done nothing wrong - but he has not said that he would not accept her resignation if offered.

The public seem united in their opposition to an election, however, an election that in many ways would not really change anything.

Ms Fitzgerald was justice minister when the alleged smear campaign was under way. She has faced questions in the Dáil (Irish parliament) about what she knew about what lawyers were going to put to Sgt McCabe at a commission of enquiry.

In particular, she has been questioned over her account of an email from the then Irish police commissioner about the legal strategy of the former Garda commissioner in the case of Sgt Maurice McCabe.

Ms Fitzgerald has recently admitted that she was made aware a year earlier than she had previously stated, that lawyers for the Garda were going to attempt to discredit Sgt McCabe.

Image copyright RTÉ
Image caption Garda Commissioner Noirin O'Sullivan retired in September

The email was initially sent to Ms Fitzgerald in May 2015, but she told the Dáil last week that she could not remember reading it.

Neither did she discuss the email from the then Irish police commissioner, Noirín O'Sullivan, a government spokesperson has said.

Frances Fitzgerald was at an event with Ms O'Sullivan the day after receiving the email. A government statement said they did not discuss the email.

However, it has emerged that Ms O'Sullivan discussed the controversial legal action relating to Mr McCabe in a phone call with a senior member of the department of justice in May 2015.

Fianna Fáil's no-confidence motion in Ms Fitzgerald is due to be debated in the Dáil on Tuesday.

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