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Going full term

Pressure on coalition to cut and run with early election, but leaders say they're going all the way

Micheál Martin says the three party leaders have agreed to go to March 2025.

THE TEMPTATION FOR Simon Harris to cut and run and call an early general election is there with coalition parties doing better at the polls than expected. 

Pressure is now on with backbenchers whispering and some others, such as Fine Gael’s Michael Ring, saying rather loudly, that now is the time, or at least in the autumn. 

Speaking in Mayo, Ring said:

I think Fine Gael would be well to go the country.

“Go to the country in October, not wait. We had two winter elections and I don’t ever want to see a winter election again.

“After Christmas, bad weather, people in bad form and credit bills coming in in February. Now is the time.”

However, speaking to reporters in the RDS today where the Dublin count is underway, Tánaiste Micheál Martin poured cold water over the suggestion.

“We’ve agreed to go to full term, the Taoiseach, I and Eamon Ryan have agreed that.

However, it is the prerogative of the Taoiseach to set the date.

Harris has insisted he has no plans to bring forward the timetable for an election from spring 2025, but he is likely to face intensifying calls from party colleagues to go earlier.

Fianna Fáil Finance Minister Michael McGrath said yesterday that his party was “not getting carried away” with the election results in Ireland as he made clear he did not want an early general election.

McGrath said Fianna Fáil had defied predictions that it would haemorrhage seats and finish the local elections a distant third.

However, he stressed that a local poll was very different to a general election.

‘Opinion polls are not elections’

This was something stressed by Martin today also, whereby he said “opinion polls are not elections”. He said for too long the Irish political narrative has relied upon poll results, which he said allows commentators to make “lazy” assumptions based on the polls. 

Local elections are different to general elections, he pointed out.

Former Taoiseach Leo Varadkar also gave such a warning last week, highlighting how Sinn Féin fared badly in the local elections in 2019 and came back with a huge surge in support in the general election in 2020. 

The Taoiseach was asked about how going the full term with this government will give the time needed for Sinn Féin to regroup and rebuild support.

He said yesterday that he still plans for the government to last until March 2025. 

While he said he accepts the advice and counsel of some members of his party, such as former MEP and Minister Frances Fitzgerald, who suggested that an election by the end of the year would be wise, he is still wants to stick to the plan. 

EU Commissioner job

Martin told reporters today that the focus is now on the budget and the summer economic statement, but there is another decision the coming down the line for the Tánasite. Who will be the next EU Commissioner? 

The finance minister has been widely tipped for the top job, which is Fianna Fáil’s gift to give, but other names have also been in the mix. 

The Journal asked the Tánaiste today if he is minded to put forward a male and female for the role, as was asked for by European Commission President Ursula Von der Leyen in previous years. 

However, Martin effectively ruled out such a move, stating:

We can, although part of me would say that the fundamental rules in terms of national decision-making should not be unduly undermined…

“That would be a traditional view of mine in terms of it’s a decision for each member state.

“We did do that on the last occasion, although it was done in a way that the outcome still became fairly, you know [clear]. So I think we need to be fair in demarcation lines as to the responsibilities, and in this instance, it’s the responsibility of the national government,” he added. 

When asked who should get the job, he said he would “make my own decision in terms of that” and will also consult with members of the party.

“I think there’ll be a wider set of considerations and criteria have to come into play. In relation to that, in particular, in terms of the strategic objectives for the country is more important than any electoral consideration,” he said. 

When asked if former Attorney General Paul Gallagher was in the mix, he said it was “news to me” when he read about it in the newspapers, and also added that he was not taking the job as he plans to lead Fianna Fáil into the next general election.

Sinn Féin

Turning to party politics, the Tánaiste didn’t want to be drawn too much on the performance of Sinn Féin, stating that it was a matter for themselves. However, he did say that he believed they lacked detailed, substantive policies. 

He criticised Sinn Féin’s proposal to eliminate the First Home Scheme and Help-to-Buy scheme stating that it would damage younger people’s prospects of buying homes.

“So there’s a been a degree of incoherence and then I think over the last nine months, they’ve been speaking out of both sides of their mouths on most issues,” he added. 

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