Enda Kenny has given his clearest indication that the General Election will take place early in the New Year.
Scotching speculation that the country could be sent to the polls as early as November, the Taoiseach said voters will have a “clear choice” next year.
“In early 2016 the people of Ireland will have a clear choice,” he said.
“A choice between government or chaos. People can choose stability and progress or to risk economic recovery to those who wrecked it in the past or to those whose policies would wreck it in the future.”
Mr Kenny made his remarks at the opening of a motion of confidence on his leadership of the country on the first day back at the Dáil after the summer break.
The debate was sparked by the inquiry into his role in the shock resignation last year of the Garda commissioner Martin Callinan.
The Fennelly interim report found Mr Callinan felt he had no option but to step down after Mr Kenny dispatched a senior official to his house late at night over a Garda phone-taping scandal.
It ruled Mr Kenny did not sack the police chief or intend to pressure him into quitting, but his orders left no choice but for him to “walk off the pitch”.
Both main Opposition parties Fianna Fáil and Sinn Féin have accused the Taoiseach of effectively ordering Mr Callinan’s resignation as a political smokescreen for mounting controversies.
But Mr Kenny told the Dáil the report was “clear and unambiguous” that removing the country’s police chief was never discussed or contemplated.
Mr Callinan’s decision to retire was his own and he could have decided otherwise, the Taoiseach said.
Mr Kenny accused Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin of "an irresponsible attempt'' to undermine the ongoing work of the Fennelly Commission for "narrow political advantage''.
He also attacked Sinn Féin for urging a no confidence debate in the Government’s chief legal adviser, Attorney General Máire Whelan, over the affair.
Attorney General Máire Whelan.
“Let me take this opportunity to say that I have absolute confidence in Attorney General Maire Whelan, and in her handling of the very serious issues that have given rise to the establishment of the Fennelly Commission,” he said.
“She is a diligent and hardworking Attorney General who provides outstanding service to the Government and to the country.”
Mr Martin said the interim report showed the Taoiseach panicked when told by the Attorney General of the Garda phone taping affair.
Mr Kenny reached conclusions without hearing all the evidence and has since tried to “hide, twist and turn” to cover his actions, the Fianna Fáil leader said.
Accusing the coalition government of refusing to be open and honest with people, Mr Martin said details had to be dragged out of the Taoiseach as he refused to answer questions on the issue for 18 months.
“The departure of the head of an independent police force due to pressure from the head of government and the attempt to hide this pressure would be a major scandal in any democratic society,” he said.
The coalition has put everything into spinning a line of defence that is as “shallow as it is cynical”, he added.
Sinn Féin President Gerry Adams said that the Taoiseach “in effect sacked” the former Garda Commissioner and that the “dubious actions of the Taoiseach and his circle in the events leading to the resignation of the former Garda Commissioner leads to unavoidable comparisons with the Fianna Fáil style of government”.
The Sinn Féin leader accused the government of creating a society that “has become increasingly polarised” and he listed a range of policy areas where government policy has infected great hurt on families, including the imposition of the Family Home tax and water charges.
Mr Adams said: "The government mantra that we are all in this together is a monstrous lie."
He accused the Government of failing the peace process by not acting as a co-guarantor of the Good Friday Agreement.
He said: "Instead to your shame you have sought to use the peace process as a political football to attack Sinn Féin."