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Here's why the election will probably be on February 25

Regardless of whether the Finance Bill is put through this week, it’s likely we’re going to the polls within 32 days.

Image: Rui Vieira/PA Wire

THE GENERAL ELECTION will now almost certainly take place on February 25, following the Green Party’s withdrawal from government yesterday and the focus shifting to the passage of the Finance Bill in the Dáil this week.

Brian Lenihan will this afternoon host a meeting of the finance spokespersons from all of the Dáil’s opposition parties – which now includes the Greens, who will likely send Eamon Ryan as their de facto finance chief for the coming weeks.

That meeting will try to outline a timetable for pushing the Finance Bill through the Dáil and Seanad before the end of the coming week; Labour and Fine Gael, who are both planning motions of no confidence in the Government, have said they will put their motions on ice if they are given assurances that the Bill can be passed before next weekend.

If the Bill makes it that far, and is passed on Friday night or Saturday morning, it’s assumed that Brian Cowen would then proceed to Áras an Úachtaráin on Saturday afternoon and seek the dissolution of the Dáil, thereby triggering the general election.

By the provisions of the Constitution, that election must take place no later than 30 days of the Dáil being dissolved – but the country’s Electoral Acts say that the election must be held within 18 and 25 days of the previous Dáil being disbanded.

That window, however, does not include Sundays or Bank Holidays – so, if the Dáil is dissolved this Saturday, January 29, the election must be held at some point between Saturday February 19 and Monday February 28.

In recent history, elections have been held in Ireland on Fridays (the 2007 election was a notable exception, with polls opened on a Thursday – a move which sparked ire among many, including students living away from home, who could not vote) – so it’s virtually certain, in that regard, that the election would be held on February 25.

If , however, Fianna Fáil’s minority government insists the Finance Bill cannot be passed this week, Labour and Fine Gael will exercise the nuclear option – and vote no confidence in the government and the Taoiseach respectively. Presumably, now on the opposition benches, the Green Party would vote alongside them, meaning the immediate collapse of the government.

In that case, Cowen would seek the dissolution of the Dáil on Wednesday night or Thursday morning; assuming the latter, the 25th non-Sunday after then is… Friday, February 25.

The other alternative scenarios that could unfold are that the opposition parties agree to allow the Finance Bill be passed in the early days of next week – which would probably push voting back to Friday, March 4.

Otherwise, if Cowen happened to seek the dissolution of the Dáil on Wednesday night (or, indeed, beforehand), the 25-day window closes on Thursday February 24. In that case, the election probably gets brought forward to February 18.

In summary, if we assume that the election will take place on a Friday, then any dissolution between this Thursday (January 27) and the Friday of next week (February 4) means February 25 is the likely day.

Chalk it down.

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About the author:

Gavan Reilly

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