Irish deputy prime minister to resign

Ireland’s deputy prime minister Frances Fitzgerald is resigning, say Sky sources, which could avert a snap election in the Republic.

A no-confidence motion in Mrs Fitzgerald, Ireland’s Tanaiste, was due to be debated tonight in the Irish Parliament over her knowledge of an aggressive legal strategy against a respected Garda sergeant during a private inquiry.

If the government had lost the vote of confidence, the Irish government’s supply and confidence arrangement would have collapsed, meaning Ireland’s Prime Minister Leo Varadkar would have to seek an early general election.

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According to a number of reports, the deputy prime minister told a cabinet meeting that she would stand down.

Mr Varadkar, Ireland’s Taoiseach, has phoned the leader of the opposition, Fianna Fail’s Micheal Martin, to confirm Mrs Fitzgerald is resigning, in a bid to avert the snap election.

The Taoiseach is due to attend parliament in Dublin later when the affair is sure to dominate.

In a scandal which stretches back more than a decade, Garda Sergeant Maurice McCabe claims he was the focus of a deliberate campaign to destroy his character after he raised concerns about police corruption.

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There were renewed calls early on Tuesday for Mrs Fitzgerald to resign or be sacked over a series of emails dating back to 2015 when she was Justice Secretary.

The emails showed she was aware of the strategy to target Sgt 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 Mr Varadkar and Mr Martin to reach a compromise over the row.

The political instability has also threatened to impact the Brexit process, with the future of the Irish border likely to be discussed at a EU Council summit in December.

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A snap election would have been expected to take place in December.

Mr Varadkar has threatened to block the Brexit negotiations progressing on to trade if he does not have sufficient assurances about the future of the border between Ireland and Northern Ireland.

Agreement on the border is one of three issues that has to be resolved before the EU has said it is prepared for talks to move on to trade.

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