"When is the right time for the country?" - Varadkar hints at early general election

The Taoiseach has again hinted at the prospect of an early general election. A number of by-elect...
Jack Quann
Jack Quann

14.47 26 May 2019

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"When is the right time f...

"When is the right time for the country?" - Varadkar hints at early general election

Jack Quann
Jack Quann

14.47 26 May 2019

Share this article

The Taoiseach has again hinted at the prospect of an early general election.

A number of by-elections could be held later this year following this weekend's European elections – with some sitting TDs potentially being elected to Brussels.

Leo Varadkar says there are a "number of factors at play" including Brexit" – but he's not ruling out holding a general election in place of four potential by-elections.


“If this had been about what was best for Fine Gael or for my party we would have gone to the country this time last year when we were doing extremely well in the opinion polls and we had just had a referendum,” he said.

“So it has never been about that; it has always been about, when is the best time for the country.”

“The results today don’t change that in either direction.

general election Taoiseach Leo Varadkar chats with party colleagues and members of the public as counting continues in the local elections at the City West convention centre in Dublin | Image: Niall Carson/PA Wire/PA Images

“There are other factors at play – Brexit and how that pans out and develops; our plan for rural Ireland, particularly in relation to broadband; getting a budget through and then of course the fact that there will be by-elections within six months that could change the composition of the Dáil.

“So all those things have to be taken into account.”

He said he is also “very aware” that it may not be his decision adding “Fianna Fáil could pull the plug on this Government at any time if they choose to and also others could to.”

"All options open"

Speaking in Cork, the Tánaiste Simon Coveney said the Government will assess the outcome of this weekend’s elections before making any decisions.

“[The Taoiseach] is keeping all options open and I think he will want to evaluate the results of this election in terms of local and European and we still have an awful lot of seats to fill,” he said.

“So no, I think the Government and Fine Gael will want to assess these results, make sure that we are fully taking the messages from the electorate and then to respond accordingly."

"Next couple of weeks"

Earlier, he said a general election may have to be considered "in the next couple of weeks".

He was speaking as counts continue in the local elections, which has seen the Fine Gael party losing ground.

He told RTÉ Radio 1's This Week programme that a general election could be better than holding several by-elections.

"I suppose that's a judgement to be made at a later date again - the by-elections have to be held within a six month period, so they'd have to be held by the end of November.

"But there are other factors at play: obviously the instability across the water in relation to Brexit, we have to bear that in mind as well, and also whether we can get the votes to get our budget through.

"That's something that has to be considered in the next couple of weeks - but obviously those by-elections do have to be held and have to be held by the end of November."

General election

However it is believed the timing could be awkward.

Neither Fine Gael or Fianna Fáil would want an election soon, based on the numbers seen in the local elections this weekend.

The possibility of pre-budget tensions has left many in Leinster House thinking a September election would be best.

But Brexit and its October deadline will also have to be considered - meaning any vote could be pushed to next year.


This afternoon, Sinn Fein's David Cullinane insisted his party is ready if the Taoiseach does decide to call an election.

“It is still speculation,” he said. “It is possible the Taoiseach could go for it.”

“It is entirely a matter for him. If he does call a general election, Sinn Féin will fight that election with real energy and enthusiasm.”


Mr Varadkar also suggested a Cabinet reshuffle is not on the cards.

He said: "I suppose it's always the prerogative of any Taoiseach to reshuffle his or her government, subject to Dáil approval of course, but it's not something I'm planning to do at the moment".

Referring again to Brexit, he explained: "I'm not sure now is the time to ask new ministers to start reading into a new brief in those areas.

"We need to get the job done I think".

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