Five things you need to know today

Smoking in pregnancy drops, FG backbenchers doubt Kenny and Trump kept Pence in dark

1. Ministers seek to stem backbench revolt against Enda Kenny

Minister for Social Protection Leo Varadkar and Minister for Housing Simon Coveney are attempting to calm Fine Gael backbenchers who want to rapidly remove Taoiseach Enda Kenny as party leader.

This comes as the Independent Alliance Ministers seek further clarity from Mr Kenny on his knowledge of the Garda whistleblower controversy and the Tusla link to the alleged smear campaign against Garda Sgt Maurice McCabe.

As concern about Mr Kenny’s performance has spread, Mr Varadkar and Mr Coveney, the two frontrunners to succeed him as Fine Gael leader, have spent recent days attempting to assuage the worries of members of the parliamentary party ahead of a meeting on Wednesday night.

2. Smoking in pregnancy 'dropped by 25% in five years'

Smoking during pregnancy has dropped by one-quarter in five years but it remains a challenging problem, according to new Irish research.

The study, which shows for the first time that women are smoking e-cigarettes during pregnancy, says the safety of these devices needs to be examined.

Between 2011 and 2015, the smoking rate among expectant mothers attending the Coombe maternity hospital in Dublin fell from 14.3 per cent to 10.9 per cent.

3. Trump kept Pence in the dark about Flynn's contact with Russia

Donald Trump was told his national security adviser had misled his vice president about his contacts with Russia but waited two weeks to act, White House officials have said.

Michael Flynn was interviewed by the FBI just days after starting his job, as his telephone conversations with Russia’s ambassador to the US had already drawn attention from law enforcement agencies.

Mr Trump was informed about the issue just six days into his presidency, but did not oust Mr Flynn until late on Monday night.

He kept Vice President Mike Pence in the dark, and initially thought Mr Flynn could survive the controversy, a source said.

4. Renters with live-in landlords have few rights, experts warn

People renting a room in someone’s home have almost no rights and are among the most vulnerable tenants in the State, housing experts have warned.

They are calling for minimum standards to be applied to Rent-a-Room scheme arrangements, the mandatory registration of such lettings and the extension of tenants’ rights to those in the sector.

They are also seeking adequate legislation to stop overcrowding in houses.

The call comes amid increasing instances of seriously overcrowded housing and obstacles faced by tenants in dispute with landlords when they are sharing their home.

Northern Ireland will not be given a special status after the UK leaves the EU, but the British government will seek arrangements that take the "unique circumstances" on the island of Ireland into account, Northern Secretary James Brokenshire has said.

"I think when people have used the term 'special status', that in part implies that Northern Ireland remains within the European Union, " he said in an interview with The Irish Times.

“And we’ve been very clear as a government that the UK as a whole made the decision to leave the European Union, and all of the parts of the UK will leave the EU as part of that.

“But that is not to be confused with very important relevant factors here on the island of Ireland. We’ve spoken about, for example, the Common Travel Area and the land Border between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland.

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