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FG warns FF: 'We are election ready. The printing machines are oiled, the photos are taken'

Last night the party members were told to get the constituency candidates ready as an election could happen at any time.

Image: Leah Farrell

THERE IS ONE message coming out loud and clear at the second day of Fine Gael’s Ard Fheis: They are election ready, and they want everyone (including Fianna Fáil) to know it. 

“We are ready,” said Tánaiste Simon Coveney, who also had a warning for Fianna Fáil – the party in which it is currently in talks with about extending the confidence and supply deal.

“We also will not stay in Government without clarity in terms of the Confidence and Supply Agreement.

“You cannot run a Government working week to week and month to month not knowing whether you have stability in the context of crucial votes in the Dáil. So that’s why these negotiations are serious in terms of trying to provide stability for another relatively short period of time.

“But it is a period of time that is very important for Ireland where big decisions have to be made, particularly in the context of Brexit.”

However, despite Fianna Fail being thrown down the general election gauntlet this weekend, the Taoiseach told the media today that he has no plans to dissolve the Dáil before Christmas.

“My primary focus is not going to be electoral advantage – it is looking after the interests of the country we are charged to lead,” he said, adding the focus has to be on Brexit now.

“I don’t have any plans to seek a dissolution of the Dáil this side of Christmas,” he said. 

However, he was quick to add that it is not entirely in his hands, pointing out that Fianna Fáil could withdraw from the confidence and supply talks at any time, and though he doesn’t anticipate it, those independents serving in government with Fine Gael may leave. “So it is not entirely in my hands,” he added. 

The Taoiseach would not be drawn on whether a proposition of a grand coalition with Fianna Fáil would be offered, telling reporters that he wasn’t going to go there. 

The minority government has worked better than he expected, added Varadkar.

Social Protection Minister Regina Doherty, who is on the Fine Gael negotiating team who are in talks with Fianna Fáil about the possible extension of the deal, said today the talks were going well, but she said progress needed to be made and negotiations need to move on.

There is a feeling among the parliamentary party that Fianna Fáil may attempt to drag out the talks into the winter, when headlines about the trolley crisis and homeless scandal might take the sheen off Fine Gael.

Health Minister Simon Harris then upped the pressure on Fianna Fáil over the certainty of the confidence and supply deal, stating that the negotiations were moving at a snails pace, stating the confidence and supply deal expires in just a couple of days when the Finance Bill passes.

The Taoiseach also did not go so far as his ministers in stating Fine Gael is 100% ready, stating that there is still a few things the party must get done, such as a few more candidate selections.

“Almost, not quite… fairly ready, not 100%,” he told reporters.

Fine Gael 526_90558756 Ministers speaking to the media at Citywest this morning.

Coveney said today that Fine Gael would like to be in a situation where it can provide certainty for the next 18 months or so, adding that the Taoiseach said over the summer that he would like to set a date for the next general election in June 2020.

“But of course that is something that has to happen between Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil. We don’t take the Confidence and Supply for granted,” he said.

Coveney said Fine Gael said he is happy with how the talks are progressing, but said the process cannot go on forever.

When the ministers were asked if the election posters had been printed, Justice Minister Charlie Flanagan said the printing machines are “well oiled”, while Communications Minister Richard Bruton said the photos had been taken. 

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