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Irish leaders seek compromise to head off snap election | Reuters

DUBLIN (Reuters) - Irish Prime Minister Leo Varadkar said he and opposition leader Micheal Martin will do all they can on Monday to find a compromise that would avoid a snap election with implications for a Brexit summit next month. Ireland's Prime Minister (Taoiseach) Leo Varadkar arrives at the launch of the FemFest conference in Dublin, Ireland, November 25, 2017. REUTERS/Clodagh KilcoyneVaradkar and the head of the main opposition party propping up his minority government have 24 hours to resolve a domestic political dispute, and one minister said she expected the parties would avoid an election, for now. Ireland will play a major role at the summit, telling EU leaders whether it believes sufficient progress has been made on the future of the border between EU-member Ireland and the British province of Northern Ireland. The border is one of three issues Brussels wants broadly resolved before it decides whether to move Brexit talks on to a second phase about trade, as Britain wants. The Irish political crisis is over Deputy Prime Minister Frances Fitzgerald’s handling of a legal case involving a police whistleblower. Martin, the leader of Fianna Fail, plans to move a motion of no confidence in her on Tuesday at 2000 GMT. Varadkar has said that if the motion was not withdrawn, he will be forced to hold an election before Christmas, a prospect EU officials say would complicate the EU Brexit summit on Dec. 14-15. “I think we all know an election is coming but it just isn’t right for the country to have that election right now and I do expect us to come back from the brink,” Social Protection Minister Regina Doherty told the Newstalk radio station. Local media reported that the leaders were looking at whether passing the issue to a judge-led tribunal, restructuring the justice department and an apology from Fitzgerald could break the deadlock. While positions softened noticeably as members of both parties reported an overwhelming desire among voters not to go to the polls, a compromise that would see Fitzgerald stay in her role remains difficult for Fianna Fail, a party source told Reuters, speaking on condition of anonymity. In public, some senior Fianna Fail MPs were less definitive when asked if Fitzgerald would have to quit. Foreign Minister Simon Coveney of Fine Gael also struck a more conciliatory tone, accepting his opponents had genuine concerns. Varadkar reiterated that there was no question of Fitzgerald being asked to step down and she was quoted by the Sunday Independent newspaper as saying she would “not bow to summary justice”. “At the weekend it looked almost certain and now it has receded somewhat to probably a 50-50 chance. It seems like Fianna Fail are trying to come to some sort of an agreement where they can avoid an election,” said Eoin O‘Malley, politics lecturer at Dublin City University. O‘Malley predicted, however, that there would be a snap election in the near future and that the government would be lucky to survive six months. Martin and Varadkar would have to put any compromise to their respective parties early on Tuesday, a high stakes approach just hours ahead of the confidence vote. “UTTERLY IRRESPONSIBLE” Coveney also reiterated on Monday that not enough progress had been made on the border issue and that he had the full backing of the EU’s chief Brexit negotiator, Michel Barnier. Concerns over how the Irish political crisis would impact the talks steadied sterling on Monday, after it posted its biggest weekly rise in more than a month. [nL3N1NX4H8] “The next couple of months are crucial for the future of Ireland, and provoking an election right now would be utterly irresponsible,” said Kevin O‘Rourke, Professor of Economic History at Oxford University, who has written extensively on Ireland’s role in the Brexit talks. Ireland’s main parties broadly back Varadkar’s position on Brexit and an opinion poll on Saturday suggested an election would lead to little change with another minority administration the most likely outcome. “Certainly I don’t want there to be an election, I don’t think it would change anything or achieve anything, particularly at such an important time for the country,” Varadkar said ahead of talks between the two leaders due late on Monday.

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Published Date: Nov 28, 2017 00:48 AM | Updated Date: Nov 28, 2017 00:48 AM

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