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Speculation has been mounting that the Taoiseach could be called in the coming days.
Speculation has been mounting that the Taoiseach could be called in the coming days.

We should know more about the timing of an election after Leo and Micheál meet for crunch talks today

A special Cabinet meeting focusing on disability issues is being held in Marino today.
Jan 9th 2020, 6:10 AM 7,226 24

LEO VARADKAR AND Micheál Martin are due to sit down for crunch talks this evening about the timing of the election. 

The meeting will take place after today’s special Cabinet meeting focusing on disability issues which is being held in Marino in Dublin. 

The two party leaders will discuss the date for the next general election and decide whether the confidence and supply arrangement both Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil signed up to in 2016 can continue into the next Dáil term.

Politicians are due back in Leinster House next Wednesday, but speculation is gathering pace that the Taoiseach might call an election in the coming days.

Varadkar recently told reporters that today’s meeting will give both leaders the opportunity to set out their stalls on a number of issues. 

The Taoiseach has dismissed suggestions that Fine Gael’s demands about priority legislation, property tax reforms, and Fianna Fáil supporting the government rather than abstaining during votes, will be too big an ask for Martin.

However, the Fianna Fáil leader has said Varadkar knows there is no way that his party members will vote with the government in the final months of the Dáil. 

While the speculation has been mounting in recent days that a February general election could be on the cards, there should be more clarity after tonight’s meeting as to whether an agreement can be made between the two leaders. 

With a Stormont deal expected to be signed off by the end of the week, a Brexit deal long-since done and a meeting with Boris Johnson in the offing in the next week or two, it will never be a better time for Fine Gael and the Taoiseach to push the election button, some government sources have said. 

The choice of location for today’s Cabinet meeting - in the constituency of Finian McGrath the Independent Alliance Minister of State for Disabilities - could also be seen as a move to keep McGrath and the independents on side as we approach an election. 

Following today’s Cabinet meeting, and after meeting with Micheál Martin, Fine Gael ministers and ministers of State will hold a meeting on Friday morning. This will be followed by a gathering of the Fine Gael parliamentary party on Friday afternoon, which is being seen as another unusual addition to the Taoiseach’s calendar (these meetings generally happen on weeknights, and only when the Dáil is in session). 

Special Cabinet meeting 

However, while election talk might be doing the rounds, the focus for the Taoiseach and ministers this morning at their meeting at the Marino Institute of Education are the issues surrounding disability.

The Disability Federation of Ireland stating ahead of the meeting today it is essential that the Cabinet is aware that for people with disabilities there remain huge obstacles and barriers.

“People have to struggle every day to access vital healthcare, housing, education and supports,” the organisation said, adding that two years on from ratification of the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, the Cabinet must show it is ready to get serious about establishing a Joint Oireachtas Committee on its implementation.

Ombudsman Peter Tyndall has written to the Cabinet to highlight some of the issues raised in complaints to his office that affect people with disabilities.

His letter describes the six-and-a-half-year delay in implementing a replacement scheme for the Mobility Allowance and Motorised Transport Grant schemes that were closed to new applicants in 2013 by the Department of Health.

The closure followed an investigation by the then Ombudsman, Emily O’Reilly, which found that the schemes were in breach of the Equal Status Act 2000.

The Ombudsman also refers to concerns he has over the eligibility criteria for the Disabled Drivers and Disabled Passengers scheme.

The scheme provides a range of tax reliefs linked to the purchase and use of specially constructed or adapted vehicles by drivers and passengers with a disability. The Ombudsman says that the criteria are extremely narrowly focused and prescriptive.

He adds that the criteria do not allow for any discretion, and many severely and permanently disabled applicants have no prospect of qualifying for the scheme as it is currently framed.

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