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Fine Gael says election planning row has damaged government talks

Fianna Fail TDs criticised contingency planning for another election if efforts to form a new coalition fail.

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A row has broken out over planning for possible new elections (PA)

A row has broken out over planning for possible new elections (PA)

A row has broken out over planning for possible new elections (PA)

Fine Gael has said government formation talks have been damaged by a row over election planning.

Some Fianna Fail TDs criticised the caretaker Fine Gael-led administration after it emerged officials were making contingency plans for another election if the current negotiations to form a new government fail.

Fine Gael responded on Sunday, insisting the officials were only “doing their jobs” because the constitution stipulates that elections must take place within set timeframes.

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar and Fianna Fail leader Micheal Martin are due to meet at the start of the week to discuss the row.

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Micheal Martin and Leo Varadkar (PA)

Micheal Martin and Leo Varadkar (PA)

Micheal Martin and Leo Varadkar (PA)

It has erupted ahead of week three of formal negotiations between Fine Gael, Fianna Fail and the Greens on forming an administration.

It is now more than three months since February’s inconclusive general election.

Fianna Fail negotiator Barry Cowen claimed the move by the Government, reported by the Irish Times on Saturday, “smacks of bad faith” while Thomas Byrne said the suggestion the coronavirus contingencies would include polling stations inside nursing homes was “utterly sick”.

Fine Gael responded on Sunday.

“The Constitution and the law are clear on this. Elections, by-elections and referenda must happen within defined timeframes once vacancies arise,” said a party statement.

“There is no specific provision for public health emergencies (e.g. pandemics) envisaged in the Constitution or the law. Officials were only doing their jobs by scenario planning for all eventualities.

“The fact that this prompted an attack on Fine Gael by two senior Fianna Fail spokespeople was unwarranted and has damaged the talks process.”

PA