Brexit has dominated the first day of this weekend's Fine Gael Ard Fheis in Dublin, where the Taoiseach has pledged to build a special bilateral relationship with the UK.

The 2,500 delegates expected to attend the conference are being told to be on a general election footing.

The two-day event is taking place at the Citywest Hotel in Dublin.

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar has committed to working closely with the UK, to build a new and special bilateral relationship with the country as it leaves the European Union.

He stressed the need to negotiate a new EU-UK Future Relationship Treaty to ensure the backstop does not have to be invoked.

Tánaiste Simon Coveney said the draft withdrawal agreement will not be reopened.

Speaking in the support of the British Prime Minister, he said that far too many people have been far too quick to write off Theresa May.

Delegates have been warned by the party's General Secretary Tom Curran that Fine Gael is preparing for a general election that "could happen at any time".

Tomorrow, the Ard Fheis will debate a proposal that a special delegate conference will have to be held, for members to approve future participation in coalition or confidence and supply governments.

The conference will culminate with Taoiseach Leo Varadkar's televised leaders' address tomorrow evening.

To avoid a clash with the Ireland versus New Zealand rugby game, the speech will be televised on RTÉ One television at the earlier time of 5.25pm tomorrow.