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Reports of February general election are 'speculation', says Varadkar

The Taoiseach spoke on RTÉ’s Marian Finucane show this morning.

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar on the Marian Finucane show this morning.
Taoiseach Leo Varadkar on the Marian Finucane show this morning.
Image: Andres Poveda

TAOISEACH LEO VARADKAR has said there will “not necessarily” be a general election held in February next year, saying reports with this date are “speculation”. 

Varadkar reiterated his preference for an election date in May 2020 on RTÉ’s Marian Finucane show which was hosted by Brendan O’Connor today. 

“My preference has always been for a summer election but that may not be my call,” the Taoiseach said today. 

The Irish Independent reported today that an election is due to be called within weeks, with a polling day expected in February. 

“My focus is on my job, not on election planning,” said Varadkar. “The papers may be focused on elections, but I’m not.”

“I haven’t discussed any [election] dates with any government minister,” he said, adding that this doesn’t mean ministers won’t speculate. 

He said that if Fine Gael were elected as the largest party in the next election, they would not allow a situation of “propping up” other parties. 

He added that they would not support a minority Fianna Fáil government because he doesn’t see Fine Gael “not becoming the largest party”. 

Dara Murphy 

In a wide-ranging interview, Varadkar discussed former Fine Gael TD Dara Murphy who recently stepped down as a Dáil deputy after he faced criticism over reports of his attendance at Leinster House. 

Murphy has been based in Brussels for the past two years where he has worked as full-time director of elections for the European People’s Party (EPP).

Fine Gael is a member of the EPP, a political grouping in the European Union.

Questions have been raised about Murphy working in Brussels while also being a sitting TD in the Dáil. 

Varadkar said today that he didn’t sanction Murphy’s role as director of elections. 

“He didn’t ask my permission [to take up the role]… this [situation] has to be investigated now,” he said. 

“The record shows he kept his constituency office open and he was in the Dáil on X number of days, 120 days and so on. But people are now questioning that so that has to be investigated,” he said on the show. 

The Dáil Members Interests Committee this week became the third body to say it does not have the power to investigate complaints against Murphy. 

Varadkar said the government was “going to have to find a way” to investigate the situation, potentially through  

“If it’s found that he broke the rules, then he should pay the money back,” he said. 

Verona Murphy 

Separately, Varadkar discussed Verona Murphy, who was included in the Fine Gael election ticket but did not receive a seat in the recent by-elections. 

She made a series of controversial comments about asylum seekers on the campaign trail, and despite several swiftly-issued apologies many Fine Gael backbenchers were unhappy she retained the backing of the party.

Varadkar said her apology for the comments was “enough” for him to campaign with her afterwards at the time.

He added that he had a “big problem” with a criticised social media video released shortly after as it suggested to him her apology wasn’t sincere. 

Varadkar said he was involved in her selection as a Fine Gael candidate for the by-election, and added that all candidates go through media training. 

He said Murphy would have been advised on answering tough questions about issues including direct provision during this training. 

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