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Varadkar pledges to try to avoid election

By David Young, PA

Leo Varadkar has pledged to try to resolve a crisis which has threatened the future of his minority Government and a snap election.

Mr Varadkar met Fianna Fail leader Micheal Martin for under an hour in Government Buildings in Dublin amid a deepening row over attempts to have a senior minister sacked.

And he vowed to continue negotiations.

"I think we still have an opportunity over the next couple of days and the weekend to avoid a general election," he said.

"I don't want there to be a general election. I don't think Micheal Martin wants one either."

Mr Martin, whose party is keeping the Fine Gael Government alive through an 18-month-old confidence and supply agreement, has refused to budge on a motion of no confidence in deputy prime minister Frances Fitzgerald.

It is scheduled for next Tuesday and was called over the handling of a 2015 email that revealed attempts to discredit a Garda whistleblower.

But the threat of an election has caused turmoil in government and political circles, with the biggest fear that it would be fought in the teeth of Brexit negotiations which could determine the future of the Irish border.

Mr Varadkar said, however, he would not sack Mrs Fitzgerald to save the Government.

"What that would mean is me throwing a good woman under a bus for political expediency, to save myself and my own Government and that would be the wrong thing to do," he said.

Mr Varadkar said that if a snap election is forced it will be called on Tuesday and it would be held in the week before Christmas. He rejected suggestions that it could be delayed until January.

Mr Varadkar said that an election in the week before Christmas would allow him to attend the European summit on Brexit in mid-December.

"In the final analysis you have to do what you feel is right," he said. "I don't feel a summary execution of Frances Fitzgerald, when people don't even know the facts, when people don't even know the charge against even, is, would be wrong."

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