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'I don't think it's the right thing for the country': Taoiseach rules out pre-Christmas general election

Speculation has been mounting in recent days about when the Irish public will go to the polls.

LAST UPDATE | 30 Oct 2019

TAOISEACH LEO VARADKAR has ruled out a pre-Christmas general election. 

Speaking at Government Buildings this afternoon, Varadkar said that it was not in the best interest of the public to go to the polls at this time. 

It is understood the Taoiseach told Fine Gael ministers in a pre-Cabinet meeting this morning that May 2020 is still his preferred date.

Speculation has been mounting in recent days about whether the recent Brexit events, as well as the upcoming election in the UK, might change matters in relation to when the Irish public will go to the polls. 

“I am Taoiseach and it is my prerogative to ask for a dissolution of the Dáil if I thought it was the right thing for the country. I don’t think it’s the right thing for the country, not with the ongoing uncertainty around Brexit,” he said.

The Taoiseach said to have a “caretaker government” in place during times of Brexit uncertainty would not be best, stating that it will be a “crucial and potentially dangerous time for Ireland”.

Unlike in the UK, Irish elections can potentially result in weeks and months of government formation negotiations, he said. 

“We know that there is going to be a UK election on the 12 December however we do not know what the outcome of that election will be and what that will mean for Brexit,” he added. 

He said Ireland could find itself in a “difficult period” between 12 December and the 31 January, “not knowing if the Brexit agreement will be ratified, not knowing if the new government may seek renegotiation, potentially even facing into a no-deal Brexit on 31 January and I don’t think it would be in the country’s interests for us to be spending potentially weeks and months trying to put together a new government at such a crucial time for our country”.

Varadkar told his party colleagues today that he offered summer 2020 as a possible date to Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin, however he is yet to agree to a date.

Martin has previously envisaged an election in Spring of next year, and when asked about the May 2020 date, the party leader told that there shouldn’t be arguing over “a few months”. 

Fine Gael ministers were told this morning that Brexit, as well as the November by-elections could jeopardise the stability of the confidence and supply arrangement with Fiann Fáil. 

He said Fine Gael does not want a general election now, but added that the party stands ready if one were to occur. 

His comments echo what he told party members at a recent fundraiser in Dublin where he stated that he believes his party can win the next general election.

“In fact, I am sure of it even though it may not become apparent until the last week or ten days of the election campaign,” he said. 

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