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Taoiseach Micheál Martin and Tánaiste Leo Varadkar Leah Farrell
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Remember remember 15th of December: Possible Stormont vote could clash with Taoiseach rotation

The two events could also clash with an EU summit.

A POLITICAL CLASH looks set to take place in mid-December, with a possible Northern Ireland Assembly election likely to occur on the same day as Leo Varadkar becomes Taoiseach.

It is looking likely that both the rotation of the Taoiseach’s office from Fianna Fáil to Fine Gael and a Northern Ireland Assembly election will take place on the same day: Thursday 15 December.

With a 28 October deadline to reestablish the Northern Ireland Executive fast approaching and the DUP no closer to returning to the Executive, it looks likely that an election will be called.

The UK’s Northern Ireland Secretary Heaton-Harris has reiterated on multiple occasions that he will call an election, as current legislation requires him to do, if the 28 October deadline passes and the Executive is not restored.

In an exchange between DUP MP Ian Paisley Jr and Heaton-Harris on Tuesday during the Northern Ireland Affairs Committee in Westminster, Paisley queried whether the election would be held on 8 December or 15 December.

In response, Heaton-Harris said:

“I’d like to think it’ll be a relatively short campaign but I’m wary of any days that might have some sort of religious connotation. I would be naming the date very quickly after the 28th if I call an election,” said Heaton-Harris.

The Feast Day of the Immaculate Conception is on 8 December, making 15 December a potential runner for the election.

When pressed by Paisley on whether it would be 8 December or 15 December, Heaton-Harris told him that he “was in the right zone” and that it would take place before Christmas.

This leaves 15 December as the most likely date for the election to take place, seven weeks after the Assembly is dissolved.

This leaves it open to clash with the change in the Taoiseach’s office.

Under the Programme for Government, agreed by Fianna Fáil, Fine Gael and the Green Party in 2020, Fine Gael leader Leo Varadkar is due to become Taoiseach on December 15, two and a half years on from the formation of the Government.

This will require the resignation of current Taoiseach Micheál Martin and the current Government, and the appointment of Leo Varadkar as Taoiseach and the formation of a new Government.

There may be additional issues for the Government on 15 December, with a two-day European Council summit of EU leaders set to to kick off on that date.

Only the head of a Government is able to attend these summits, which may prevent either Varadkar or Martin attending the first day of the summit.

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