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'Decision is made': Varadkar to reveal election date next week

'Decision is made': Varadkar to reveal election date next week

Update: Taoiseach Leo Varadkar has indicated that the country is potentially heading for a general election in the coming weeks, given a change in support in the Dáil for the coalition.

Speaking to RTE's The Week in Politics, he confirmed he had changed his mind about intending to hold a vote in May. This was in part due to changed support in the Dáil for the Fine Gael-led coalition.

He said he had decided when to call an election but declined to confirm the date.

“It's been my view for a long time now that the right time would be the summer of 2020, but I have to acknowledge that circumstances have changed. We have a deal on Brexit. In many ways that was the big job of this government, our magnum opus, to secure a deal on Brexit.

“We have the institutions up and running in Northern Ireland, which the Tánaiste (Simon Coveney) and I have put a huge amount of work into, particularly the Tánaiste.

“And also the arithmetic in the Dáil has changed, and that's the reality of that. So I have made a decision. But there is some unfinished business to do which I want to get done.

"And also there is some respect and protocol around this and I would like to speak to the Cabinet, to leaders of the Opposition. As things stand, the Cabinet will meet on Tuesday and the Dáil will reconvene on Wednesday.”

But Mr Varadkar identified other matters preventing an immediate dissolving of the Dáil.

I'll end any uncertainty as soon as I can. Bit of unfinished business to do, which I want to get done, which is important around European affairs and British affairs.

Government figures were last night trying to finalise an opportunity for Mr Varadkar and British prime minister Boris Johnson to meet in the North over the resumption of power-sharing.

'Decision is made': Varadkar to reveal election date next week

On Wednesday, Mr Varadkar will welcome newly appointed European Commission president Ursula von der Leyen to Ireland.

Given the events, it now seems unlikely that the Taoiseach would dissolve the Dáil on Wednesday, but the potential of an election being held on February 14, is still the belief of coalition figures.

Mr Varadkar, in his interview, did not say the Government could win a vote of no confidence tabled against a minister, despite last week saying it one could be defeated. It follows confirmation from Fianna Fáil TD John McGuinness that he would vote against the Government in any such motion, a move which would breach the support pact his party has with the Fine Gael-led administration.

“There is some division within Fianna Fáil. And that obviously is a factor to take into account as well. The leader of Fianna Fáil has always said to me that they've honoured the confidence and supply agreement but it does appear that the division within their party may make it impossible for them to,” added Mr Varadkar.

Hospital beds

Addressing problems in the health service, he said that a previous Fianna Fáil government had cut 2,000 hospital beds and that in recent years Fine Gael had reversed that, by adding 1,000 beds. He also said the number of people on waiting lists had fallen.

Mr Varadkar also said that since he became Taoiseach, the number of new houses built had trebled and house prices were levelling off because more houses were built last year than any other year in the last decade.

Additional reporting by Digital Desk

Update: Fianna Fáil's John McGuinness has confirmed he would defy his own party and vote no confidence in Health Minister Simon Harris next month.

It comes amid mounting speculation that the Taoiseach will call a general election for February 7.

The Carlow Kilkenny deputy said the country has had enough "dithering" and it is time to force a general election.

Mr McGuinness said: "There seems to be a reluctance to face up to the fact that this government is flogging a dead horse, is a the end of its time, and therefore the members of the Dáil should express their own views in the context of the motion of no confidence in Simon Harris.

"They would not get the opportunity to vote no confidence in the Government, this is next best thing."

How is the election date decided?

Under Irish law, once the Dáil is dissolved and the President has issued a proclamation confirming it, the Clerk of the Dáil issues a writ to the returning officer in each constituency directing them to hold an election of the prescribed number of members. A general election must be held within 30 days of the dissolution of the Dáil.

The Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government appoints the polling day which must be between the 18th and 25th day (excluding Good Friday, Sundays and public holidays) after the issue of the writ issued by the Clerk of the Dáil.

Earlier: Taoiseach to call general election for February, say reports

The Taoiseach Leo Varadkar is preparing to call a general election on February 7, according to reports.

'Decision is made': Varadkar to reveal election date next week

The Sunday Times says Leo Varadkar could ask for the dissolution of the Dáil as early as tomorrow.

It follows the restoration of a power-sharing government at Stormont yesterday.

The rumoured date would also come after Britain's planned departure from the EU at the end of this month.

Michael Healy Rae has said it is time the Taoiseach "pulled the plug" and went to the polls.

The Independent Deputy for Kerry said Mr Varadkar has no other choice but to go to the people.

He said: "This government is like a motor car that is going down a hill, it's out of petrol, it has four bald tyres and the NCT is out and they are heading for a ditch.

"They just have to pull the plug and go to the country to give the people the opportunity that they need to decide who is going to govern this country for the next number of years."

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