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Dublin: 5°C Tuesday 25 January 2022

'Political stunt' or 'a government drawing to a finish': Election fever has officially taken hold

Several politicians have taken to the airwaves this morning.

Sinn Féin leader Mary Lou McDonald has been out speaking this morning.
Sinn Féin leader Mary Lou McDonald has been out speaking this morning.
Image: Sam Boal/Rollingnews.ie

ELECTION FEVER HAS led to frenzied speculation about when the country will go to the polls, with various politicians going on airwaves this morning to vent either enthusiasm or frustration. 

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar said yesterday he has “made a decision” on the calling of an election but added that he won’t make it public yet, wanting to first speak to his Cabinet and to opposition leaders. 

He also said that the Dáil would reconvence on Wednesday but the timeline beyond that is unclear. 

The admission that a decision has been made has been taken as confirmation that an election is imminent and moves by the Rural Independent Group have hastened the situation further this morning.

Independent TD Mattie McGrath confirmed that a majority of the group has voted to use private members time on 5 February to proceed with a motion of no confidence in Health Minister Simon Harris. 

“Although I and several members of our group had already expressed a clear preference for bringing forward this motion; it was only appropriate that the matter be democratically decided by a majority before we made any definitive decision,” McGrath said in a statement this morning. 

Varadkar said yesterday that while losing such a vote would not automatically necessitate an election, it would effectively show that a taoiseach had lost their mandate in the Dáil.

Losing such a vote has become a greater possibility after a number of independent TDs who have supported the government indicated they could not vote support for Harris.

Speaking on RTÉ’s Morning Ireland programme, Minister of State for Disability Issues Finian McGrath said “sensible people in the Dáil” want to go on until April or May to pass important legislation but this has been upended by a “political stunt”. 

The political stunt is bringing the vote of no confidence in Minister Simon Harris by the likes of Matthew McGrath and Michael Collins and John McGuinness. I think this is scandalous behaviour for these representatives, particularly when we had a lot of work to do over the next 35/36 days. We could have easily waited until April or May, that’s what the sensible people in the Dáil wanted to do. 

“There’s a difference between political stunts and opposing the government and holding the government to account. The reality is these people are blocking 56,000 medical cards. They’re stopping me getting the disability through Dáil Éireann and it’s absolutely scandalous behaviour by them,” he added. 

McGrath said he “accepted the realities on the numbers” in that the government may not have enough votes to continue.  

Speaking on Newstalk Breakfast, Fianna Fáil’s Dara Calleary TD said this was a problem of the Taoiseach’s “own making”. 

“The Taoiseach indicated on Thursday night that he would talk to independents and two other parties. He indicated that he didn’t need Fianna Fail votes to continue, clearly on the basis of those discussions he feels he cannot get the numbers,” he said. 

He lost the Dublin Mid-West by-election and he allowed, and this has been forgotten, the Taoiseach allowed Dara Murphy to resign early and go to that job in Europe. So the number situation are completely of his own making.

Sinn Féin leader Mary Lou McDonald also accepted that a general election was imminent and attacked the confidence and supply agreement between Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael.

It might be a Valentine’s Day election but what is clear is this government has drawn to a finish. Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael have been in power together in effect for as Dara Calleary has said, almost four years.

“And we are now going to go to the people and I very much hope that the campaign will be informative. I really hope that people will see the value of using their vote. And I very much hope that a government will be returned that listens to people, that is responsive to people and we will be setting out a platform that’s all about working for families and for communities.”

About the author:

Rónán Duffy

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