An election row has broken out over Brexit interventions being made by Irish EU commissioner Phil Hogan.
Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin has claimed comments from Mr Hogan were a "coded partisan intervention", but this was rejected by Mr Hogan and Fine Gael figures like Minister for Finance Paschal Donohoe and Minister of State for European Affairs Helen McEntee.
Mr Hogan is a former Fine Gael minister who was first nominated to the European Commission by former Fine Gael taoiseach Enda Kenny in 2014. He served a five-year term as agriculture commissioner.
He was renominated last year by Mr Kenny's successor Leo Varadkar and has taken up the trade portfolio in the new commission.
Earlier this week, ahead of Britain's formal departure from the EU on Friday, Mr Hogan said he was "very concerned" with what he saw in Ireland regarding attitudes to Brexit, urging people to "come out of their slumber" and saying a "crash-out" Brexit is still a possibility at the end of the year.
Tánaiste Simon Coveney, Mr Donohoe and Ms McEntee will visit Dublin Port early on Friday to tour its purpose-built Brexit facilities. Brexit is due to take effect from 11pm on Friday.
Mr Martin accused Fine Gael of politicising Brexit.
“It is desperate stuff, getting up at five in the morning to go to a port for a photo op,” he said. “They are always about spin. It is just pathetic stuff.”
A transition period will still see the UK remain in the European single market and customs union until the end of the year.
British prime minister Boris Johnson says he will not extend this period and wants an agreement on the future EU-UK relationship in place by the end of 2020, a situation which Mr Hogan said could lead to a crash-out Brexit if no deal is struck.
Earlier this week, he said: “I’m very concerned at what I see in Ireland at the moment. There’s a lot of complacency in the system. Commentators and the media and the public generally don’t seem to realise we’re starting the most difficult part of the negotiations.”
Fine Gael has sought to highlight the risks of the next phase of Brexit talks in its election campaign, and Fianna Fáil sources claim Mr Hogan’s message chimed with that of his old party colleagues.
“I think Phil Hogan now should stay out of domestic Irish politics . . . for the next week. That was, to me, a coded partisan intervention,” Mr Martin said, responding to Mr Hogan’s comments.
Mr Donohoe said Mr Hogan was only “outlining the reality” of what is to come on Brexit.
Reacting to the Fianna Fáil leader’s comments, Mr Hogan told RTÉ’s Today with Seán O’Rourke programme he had never “interfered” in domestic politics since his appointment as EU commissioner.
Mr Hogan said the reaction from Mr Martin – who he described as the “would-be taoiseach” – was remarkable.
"We are on the eve of Brexit. It is on the week when we have a very detailed conversation with Michel Barnier in the College of Commissioners," the former Carlow-Kilkenny TD said.
"It is a week when the European Parliament has voted for Brexit and voted for the approval of the withdrawal agreement.
“I am sure that that is the case and I have never said otherwise, but I know that people are sensitive at election time, but I am not sensitive about telling the truth about the position and alerting people out of their complacency to realise that phase two of the negotiations are going to be even more difficult than phase one.”