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#Elections2019: General election not ruled out, Taoiseach says

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar pictured casting his vote in the European and Local Elections and the Divorce Referendum at Scoil Thomáis, Laurel Lodge, Castleknock this afternoon. Picture Colin Keegan

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar is not ruling out calling a general election if numbers are altered in the Dail.

He said a number of by-elections may need to be held if sitting TDs are elected to the European parliament.

The Taoiseach said beyond the “next few days and weeks”, he could not rule out an election, citing the various matters that could cause it.

Given the risks with Brexit as well as the mandate needed to pass October's budget, he said there would need to be a decision whether to hold the by-elections or to go to the country.

“If this had been about what was best for Fine Gael, we would have gone to the country this time last year, when we were at 35%. So it has never been about that, it has been what is best for the country.”

“The results today don't change that. There are other factors at play. Brexit and how that pans out. Rural Ireland and our plans for broadband, getting a budget through and of course there will be by-elections within six months,” he said.

“All of those things have to be taken into account. But I am also very aware that the ending of this Dail may not be my decision. Fianna Fail could pull the plug on this Government at any time if they chose to,” he said.

Asked why he could not commit beyond a few days, he said: “In the context of the current Dail and a minority government, where we only have a quarter of the seats, that is just the reality of this. Of course, anyone in government would prefer to be in with a stable majority, but that is the way it is,” he said.

Several TDs are in the running for potential seats, including Fine Gael's Frances Fitzgerald, Fianna Fail's Billy Kelleher as well as Independents Clare Daly and Mick Wallace.

The Fine Gael-led government relies on the support of Fianna Fail TDs to pass legislation and budgets through the Dail. But the numbers are tight for the government. Any reduction in its combined strength with Fianna Fail would likely reduce the ability to pass laws as well as get October's budget.

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