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Row between Fianna Fail and Fine Gael over election planning escalates as Taoiseach claims government talks 'damaged'

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Fianna Fail leader Micheal Martin and Fine Gael leader Leo Varadkar.

Fianna Fail leader Micheal Martin and Fine Gael leader Leo Varadkar.

Fianna Fail leader Micheal Martin and Fine Gael leader Leo Varadkar.

A row between Fine Gael and Fianna Fail over election planning has escalated with Taoiseach Leo Varadkar's party claiming he talks process has been "damaged".

Mr Varadkar is set to contact Fianna Fail leader Micheal Martin to discuss what Fine Gael has argued is an "unwarranted" attack on his party on the matter.

It emerged on Saturday that logistical planning is taking place for the holding of elections and referendums during the Covid-19 crisis.

Housing Minister Eoghan Murphy confirmed that officials in his Department are carrying out the work.

News of the election planning prompted criticisim from senior Fianna Fail TDs Barry Cowen and Thomas Byrne.

Mr Cowen said the emergence of the plan "smacks of bad faith, selfishness and putting party before country."

Mr Byrne branded the suggestion of polling in nursing homes as "utterly sick".

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This afternoon Fine Gael released a statement hitting out at the comments by the Fianna Fail TDs.

The party said "talks were going well" but they are now "damaged".

The statement said: "Following the unwillingness and inability of other parties to form a Government without us, Fine Gael agreed to enter talks with Fianna Fail and the Green Party with a view to forming a Government in the national interest.

"Talks were going well."

It said it was reported on Saturday how Housing Department officials are making contingency plans for polling in the coming months.

Fine Gael says the constitution and the law are clear that elections, by-elections and referendum must happen within certain timeframes.

"Officials were only doing their jobs by scenario planning for all eventualities. "

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

It is also rather ironic that one of the two had recently claimed falsely that both parties had agreed to hold a referendum within weeks of forming a Government, presumably during a pandemic.

This is understood to be a reference to Mr Cowen who was quoted in a Business Post story last month saying that a referendum to curtail the price of land for housing would have to take place "as soon as possible".

The Fine Gael statement also said: "The Leader of Fine Gael will be in contact with the Leader of Fianna Fail to discuss the matter".

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