Fine Gael has held a two-hour private meeting of its parliamentary party in Leinster House this evening amid a growing consensus that a General Election could take place early next year.

The mood at the meeting was described afterwards as "determined".

Several speakers said efforts had to be redoubled to prevent Fianna Fáil gaining power after the next election.

Former finance minister Michael Noonan is understood to have told TDs and Senators that the focus should be kept on the management of the economy and not to get bogged down in other issues.

There are accusations too that Fianna Fáil is already lining up advisers for the next government.

Minister for Employment Regina Doherty told the meeting that communications must be improved and party members must not talk each other down publicly.

Junior Minister Brendan Griffin reportedly said that this was Fine Gael's election to lose and everything must be done to stop Fianna Fáil returning to power for the first time since 2011.

There was particular praise for two of the party's by-election candidates Colm Burke and Emer Higgins.

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar told the party that there would be an election in the first six months of next year.

Some members of the Fine Gael parliamentary are privately of the view that an election could be called as early as January.