Varadkar ‘has made a decision’ on general election date

Varadkar ‘has made a decision’ on general election date
Varadkar ‘has made a decision’ on general election date

Election fever has gripped political parties ahead of an expected announcement by Taoiseach Leo Varadkar that the country is to go to the polls.

Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil are ramping up campaigns as the coalition Government enters its final days.

Mr Varadkar could dissolve the Dáil within days, and while he said he had changed his mind about the election timing, he refused to name a date.

He also warned of other parties campaigning in the “next couple of weeks”.

Government whip Seán Kyne said that there was a “strong possibility” of an election early next month, with February 7 or 14 being mooted.

In a statement last night, Fianna Fáil said the party was “ready to fight and win the general election”, as it announced that deputy leader Dara Calleary would be its director of elections.

Mr Varadkar said Fine Gael would defend its record on health reform and efforts to reduce homelessness.

He said that Fine Gael, if returned in second place, could be willing to support Fianna Fáil in a reverse of the current confidence and supply deal.

“I think we would have to consider it but, as I say, my focus is on winning the election whenever it comes, so whatever it’s called,” he said. “That means emerging as the largest party and I believe we can do that.”

He said he had “unfinished business”, including British and European affairs.

Mr Varadkar will today meet British prime minister Boris Johnson in Belfast following the resumption of power-sharing in the North, while he will also welcome to Dublin European Commission president Ursula von der Leyen on Wednesday.

With Independents and smaller parties no longer willing to support the Fine Gael-led coalition and the confidence and supply deal with Fianna Fáil on the brink of collapse, Government figures told the Irish Examiner the election date would almost certainly be revealed this week.

Fine Gael ministers also went into campaign mode, with Regina Doherty, the social protection minister, revealing that, if returned, the party would increase pensions by €5 a week for five years, while Local Government Minister John Paul Phelan, reportedly told a weekend conference in his native Kilkenny that some Green Party members were “nutters”.

Mr Phelan did not respond to calls requesting comment.

Nonetheless, Mr Varadkar still refused to clarify the election date.

“I have made a decision,” he said. “But there is some unfinished business to do which I want to get done. And also there is some respect and protocol around this and I would like to speak to the Cabinet, to the leaders of the opposition.

“So, as things stand, the Cabinet will meet on Tuesday and the Dáil will reconvene on Wednesday.”

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