Stephen McNeice
Stephen McNeice

12.45 12 Jan 2020


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The Taoiseach has confirmed he has decided on a general election date - although he has not yet said when exactly the vote will take place.

Several newspaper reports this morning have indicated 7th February could be the day the country goes to the polls.

The Sunday Times suggests Leo Varadkar could ask President Higgins to approve the dissolution of the Dail as early as tomorrow.

Speaking on RTÉ today, the Taoiseach confirmed he has made a decision on the election date - acknowledging that 'circumstances have changed', despite his own preference for a summer election.

However, he would not be drawn on the actual date - saying there is some "unfinished business" he would first like to get done.

Mr Varadkar said he would like to speak to his Cabinet and leaders of the opposition before dissolving the Dáil, and that 'as things stand' the Dáil will reconvene on Wednesday.

Confidence motion

The speculation comes amid questions over whether the Government could survive a proposed confidence vote in the Health Minister Simon Harris.

Rural Independent TD Michael Collins has said he wants to table such a motion after the Dáil - although Oireachtas rules mean it would not be debated until early February.

Current numbers in the Dáil mean Fine Gael is reliant on the support of a number of independent TDs in key votes such as confidence motions.

In a statement on Saturday, independent TD Michael Lowry - who often votes with the Government - said he did not believe the current Dáil would even have the opportunity to debate a confidence motion in Minister Harris.

He argued: "Dáil procedures dictate that this confidence motion will not be heard until February 5th.

"I expect the Taoiseach will exercise his prerogative to call an election which will be well underway by February 5th, therefore speculation on my voting intentions is immaterial and irrelevant."

'Heading for a ditch'

Fianna Fáil's John McGuinness has previously said he would vote against the Government in a confidence motion - potentially defying his own party's confidence & supply arrangement with Fine Gael.

The Carlow-Kilkenny TD today said the country has had enough 'dithering' and it's time to force a general election if one isn't called.

He told Newstalk's On the Record: "There seems to be a reluctance to face up to the fact that this Government is flogging a dead horse - it's at the end of its time.

"Therefore the members of the Dáil should express their own views in the context of the motion of no confidence in Simon Harris."

Another independent TD - Kerry's Michael Healy Rae - has also suggested it's time the Taoiseach 'pulled the plug' and went to the polls.

He claimed: "This Government is like a motor car that is going down a hill... it is out of petrol, it has four bald tyres, the NCT is out, and they're heading for a ditch.

"They need to go to the country and give the people the opportunity to decide who is going to govern this country for the next number of years."

Commenting on the current political situation, Gavan Reilly - presenter of On the Record - observed: "Perhaps with the way the [Dáil] arithmetic has come out in the last 48 hours, it wouldn't be at all surprising if Leo Varadkar decided the game was up.

"Rather than it being some sort of collapse in relations with Fianna Fáil, it's the fact that the other independents on whom he is reliant are no longer prepared to support him.

"I think both parties will probably be quite pleased deep down that this is the orderly way in which they can write it all off."

Main image: File photo of Taoiseach Leo Varadkar. Picture by: Brian Lawless/PA Wire/PA Images

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