The Dáil has passed a Fine Gael motion of confidence in the Government, tabled in response to Sinn Féin's motion of no confidence announced over the handling of the response to the Sgt Maurice McCabe affair.

The motion was passed by 57 votes to 52, with 44 abstentions by Fianna Fáil.

It came after an often heated discussion at Leinster House, with Taoiseach Enda Kenny saying the motion was a result of "political opportunism" on the part of Sinn Féin.

However, Sinn Féin leader Gerry Adams said the Taoiseach leads a Government "without a purpose and devoid of direction", adding that it had lost the authority to govern.

Mr Adams also attacked Fianna Fáil saying the party only wanted to ensure that this Government survives.

His comments came after Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin said that when Sinn Féin comes across an issue, it looks at how it can exploit it.

Mr Martin also said there is no evidence that an immediate election will help address the scandal or help the country overcome the challenges it faces.

Ahead of the vote, Tánaiste and Minister for Justice Frances Fitzgerald paid tribute to garda whistelblower Sgt McCabe and his family for speaking out.

"Any wrongdoing within An Garda Síochána must be addressed fully and fairly," Ms Fitzgerald said.

The Dáil will sit again at 10.30am.

As it happened: Govt survives Dáil motion of confidence

Varadkar and Coveney warn election may be imminent

However, despite the motion passing it is understood both Leo Varadkar and Simon Coveney have told Fine Gael TDs and Senators that the party must be ready for an election.

They made the comments at a parliamentary party meeting this evening at Leinster House that heard the Taoiseach concede that the last few days "had not been easy".

Both ministers are seen as contenders to replace Mr Kenny, who is under increasing pressure to indicate when he intends to step down.

Earlier, a backbench Fine Gael TD said the Government is in a precarious position and called on his party to act in the next "six to eight weeks" to select a new leader.

John Paul Phelan told Kilkenny-Carlow radio station KCLR that there should be a new leader of Fine Gael in the near future because he thinks there will be a general election in the near future.

Fellow Fine Gael TD Jim Daly meanwhile said he thinks the issue of the party leadership plays second fiddle at a time of national crisis.

Speaking on RTÉ’s Today with Sean O'Rourke, he said the people he represented were much more concerned about the welfare of the McCabe family and the issues surrounding the child and family agency Tusla and the possibility of collusion involving State agencies.

The Government has agreed to set up an inquiry into allegations that garda whistleblower Sgt Maurice McCabe was smeared by senior gardaí.

The Cork South West TD, who chairs the Oireachtas Committee on Children and Youth Affairs, said he did not think it was in the national interest to be moving the debate towards the leadership of Fine Gael.

Mr Daly said the Taoiseach's handling of the garda whistleblower crisis is not his finest hour but his errors, admitted in the Dáil yesterday, were not an election issue.

On the same programme, Sinn Féin TD Jonathan O'Brien accused Fianna Fáil of sitting on the fence at a time of national crisis over its planned abstention in the Dáil vote.

He said the priority was to get truth and justice for Sgt McCabe and other whistleblowers through a public inquiry.

He said the Taoiseach has consistently contradicted himself over the past few days and the only way to get a better Government was to go to the people.

However, Fianna Fáil TD Timmy Dooley that while the entire escapade over the past week was shambolic and unedifying, calls for an election were not warranted at this time.

He added that he was not going to engage in discussions over the Fine Gael leadership.