Government pulls back from the brink: Timeline of events

Frances Fitzgerald has resigned as Tánaiste after a week-long crisis over an email that brought the Government to the verge of collapse.

Here is a timeline of key developments that ultimately forced Frances Fitzgerald to fall on her sword.

In recent weeks attention refocused on the controversy around the state's treatment of high-profile Garda whistleblower Maurice McCabe after Labour TD Alan Kelly tabled a series of parliamentary questions.

As a consequence, a May 2015 email came to light that indicated Mrs Fitzgerald was informed of a hard-line approach taken by Garda lawyers against Sergeant McCabe during a then ongoing inquiry into his claims of malpractice within the force.

This was a major twist in the long-running furore as it raised questions over the former justice minister's previous claims that she only became aware of the contentious legal strategy to discredit and question the motives of Mr McCabe a year later.

The emergence of the email triggered a dramatic week of events that pushed Mrs Fitzgerald over the brink.

Tuesday, November 21:

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar springs to Mrs Fitzgerald's defence in the Dáil, insisting that she played no role in deciding the legal strategy. Facing opposition demands to face the music, Mrs Fitzgerald offers a robust defence of her position and publishes the contents of the email in a redacted form.

She insists she could not remember receiving it and restates her position that she only became aware of the alleged smear campaign against Mr McCabe when it became public knowledge in May 2016.

That night, Mr Varadkar calls Mr McCabe to discuss the email controversy.

Wednesday, November 22:

The Taoiseach asks the Department of Justice to trawl its files to see if there were any other relevant documents related to Mr McCabe that had not already been passed to a judicial probe examining his treatment. He told the Dáil the government had "nothing to hide".

Thursday, November 23:

The crisis escalates dramatically when first Sinn Féin and then Fianna Fail announce their intention to table motions of no confidence in Mrs Fitzgerald the following week. The moves come after the Tánaiste again appeared in the Dáil to defend her position.

Fianna Fáil's decision was the most significant as it automatically placed the future of the government on the line. If the main opposition party was to support such a motion in the Dáil it would breach its fragile confidence and supply deal keeping Mr Varadkar's minority administration afloat and trigger a snap winter election.

Members of the Fine Gael parliamentary party announce they are standing foursquare behind Mrs Fitzgerald.

Friday, November 24:

Mr Varadkar meets Fianna Fail leader Micheál Martin in Government Buildings in Dublin in an attempt to thrash out a compromise deal that results in neither an election or Mrs Fitzgerald's departure. The discussions are described as "open and frank" but no consensus emerges.

Saturday, November 25:

Mr Varadkar uses a speech at an event focusing on female role models to laud the Tánaiste as an "honourable and distinguished politician". Afterwards, the Fine Gael leader rejects any suggestion he was privately hoping his party colleague would walk away to quell the crisis.

Later, Mr Varadkar and Mr Martin again meet to discuss the situation. The Taoiseach updates the Fianna Fáil leader on the trawl through justice department records.

Sunday, November 26:

The Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil leaders hold a third round of face to face talks in a bid to resolve the stand-off. No agreement is forthcoming.

Monday, November 27:

The result of the trawl is published. It includes a new tranche of emails that not only indicate Mrs Fitzgerald "noted" the contents of the email at the heart of the controversy but also that she received two further mails in 2015 that touched on the treatment of Mr McCabe. One of those additional emails referenced an "aggressive" strategy taken against the sergeant and advised Mrs Fitzgerald what line to take on the matter if asked by the media.

The information, which heaps further pressure on the embattled Tanaiste, is disclosed hours before another meeting between Mr Varadkar and Mr Martin at Government Buildings. A spokesman for the Taoiseach says he still supports his party colleague while Mrs Fitzgerald sends two defiant tweets that indicates she is going nowhere. The leadership talks break up around 11pm without resolution.

Tuesday, November 28:

Tánaiste Frances Fitzgerald arriving at Government Buildings in Dublin ahead of a vote of no confidence against her later today

With Fianna Fáil's position on Mrs Fitzgerald having hardened and amid growing disquiet over the affair among senior Fine Gael members, the Cabinet meets in Government Buildings.

Mrs Fitzgerald informs her colleagues she will resign.


 

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