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Election fever: Enda's teasing everyone and Joan's holding babies

Enda Kenny remained tight-lipped about the date of an election, while Joan Burton gave mixed messages.

Joan Burton with some young children at a Labour event in Dublin today
Joan Burton with some young children at a Labour event in Dublin today
Image: Hugh O'Connell

Updated 5.25pm 

SPECULATION ABOUT AN early general election continues today as the Taoiseach Enda Kenny remained tight-lipped and the Tánaiste Joan Burton gave mixed messages.

Over the last three days, Kenny has given little away in the face of questions from journalists and politicians about the possibility of an election before the end of the year.

The renewed speculation about a November election was sparked by Kenny’s refusal to rule it out when asked repeatedly at an event in Mayo on Monday. He was also unable to provide any clarity when pushed on the matter in the Dáil yesterday afternoon.

The Tánaiste broke her silence today, but gave mixed messages.

First, Burton indicated she’d received assurances that the election would not take place until next year. Later, she said there were “no guarantees” about the date before finally saying she would not bet on an early election. 

What Enda said today…

This morning, at a Fine Gael fundraiser in Dublin, Kenny jokingly asked party members to remind him to give them a date before he left.

Later during his speech he said the date would be “next Tuesday – that’s the start, if you like, of the continued recovery of the country” referring to the Budget announcement next week – and not the election. He added:

Funny thing, everywhere I go now for some reason they’re always staring at me, they’re looking for a hint.  

Then at a jobs announcement in Dublin a short time later, Kenny joked that the electoral cycle could be extended, telling journalists: “Actually its seven years in the Constitution but convention says it’s five.”

In fact, legislation, the Electoral Act 1992, stipulates that the Dáil can last for a period no longer than five years.

At the same event, Burton said she had had “a friendly conversation” with Kenny about not calling an early election.

I have always said we would stay the course and do the five [years]. I had a long conversation with the Taoiseach yesterday – a very friendly conversation. I think we know we have a job of work to do, and we’re committed to doing it.

She also said it was important that the banking inquiry be allowed to finish its work and that several pieces of legislation be allowed pass through the Oireachtas before the end of the year.

Kenny again faced questions on the early election speculation during the Dáil’s Order of Business. Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin was again seeking clarity on the matter in the wake of the decision to extend the term of the banking inquiry yesterday.

Kenny insisted that the inquiry’s extension and the calling of an election are “entirely separate” matters.

I don’t recall standing in this chair here indicating the dates or otherwise of general elections. They’re separate matters. The request that came form the committee chairman [for an extension] is perfectly reasonable [and] was adopted by the Dáil.

Martin was not happy and sought to press the Taoiseach on the matter, saying his refusal to provide clarity was “outrageous”.

But Ceann Comhairle Seán Barrett said Martin was out of order and there was no further clarity provided by Kenny.

What Joan said this afternoon…

This afternoon, at the launch of a Labour party report on childcare, Burton was asked if she had received assurances from Kenny that there would not be an early election. She responded:

Now you’re asking about very private conversations and the private conversations tend to all have one ending, which is: next year.

Burton then repeated that there are a number of parliamentary issues which need to be resolved in the coming months including the conclusion of the banking inquiry

Asked if the Taoiseach would be ‘shafting’ her if an election was called for November, the Dublin West TD said:

All I can say is that we’ve had discussions on the issue. We also have three very important pieces of legislation in the context of the Budget and each of these pieces of legislation is of equal importance.

She said these were the Finance Bill, the Social Welfare Bill and the reinstatement of some of the public service pay reductions made under FEMPI legislation, all of which she said needed “a decent amount of time for debate”.

But all this appeared to be undermined when Burton was asked about “guarantees in relation to the timing of the election” and she quickly intervened to say:

There’s no guarantees in relation to anything to do with the timing of the election. But I said there are very significant and important pieces of legislation which both parties are anxious to get through and which are a must-do.

She insisted that “next year” endures. 

Then Burton, as if to underline that we are in election season, did a photocall with some babies – a classic election campaign tactic.
http://vine.co/v/e23revQrimM

Asked if this was surely an indication of an early election, Burton responded finally:

Well, I wouldn’t bet on that. I don’t know whether you’ve been down to any of the bookies, but I wouldn’t bet on it.

Poll: When do you want a general election to be held?

Read: Enda was given a perfect opportunity to rule out an early election today

About the author:

Hugh O'Connell

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