Leinster House disruption ahead of poll date decision

Leinster House disruption ahead of poll date decision
Taoiseach Leo Varadkar speaking to media following the first Cabinet meeting of 2019 at Government buildings, Dublin Photo: Gareth Chaney Collins.

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar has cancelled this morning's meeting of Fine Gael ministers and brought Cabinet forward to 9am, fuelling fresh speculation the Dail could be dissolved today.

Normally, Mr Varadkar convenes a meeting of his party's ministers before Cabinet in order to discuss strategy and agree plans before discussions with independent ministers.

However, with the near certainty of the Dail being dissolved this week, the move to bring the Cabinet meeting forward from its normal 10.30am start was last night seen as significant.

There was a sense among some Fine Gael ministers that Mr Varadkar would not wish to go into the Dail and “take several hours of grief” from opposition TDs, who can now numerically defeat the Government, even if Fianna Fail TDs abstain.

The news of the cancellation of the meeting comes after Fianna Fail leader Micheal Martin said the Taoiseach told him he cannot guarantee all of his own TDs will continue to vote for him.

Mr Varadkar reportedly told Mr Martin that he wasn’t confident of the vote of Maria Bailey, in the event of a vote of no confidence in Health Minister Simon Harris.

The two men are due to meet again this week ahead of the expcThe loss of three TDs in recent times had really put the Taoiseach in some difficulty Mr Martin said.

“He said to us that he wasn’t sure of some of his own people,” the Fianna Fail leader said.Mr Martin said that in the last four years Fianna Fáil had honoured the Confidence and Supply Agreement and that “no one can question Fianna Fáil’s bona fides.”

Were Mr Varadkar not to dissolve the Dail today, there was a strong sense within Fine Gael he would go to Aras an Uachtarain on Thursday, following the State visit of new European Commission President Ursula Von den Leyen on Wednesday, paving the way for an election on Friday February 7th or one week later on St Valentine's Day.

Should the election happen on either of those days, it emerged that thousands of voters face being excluded from the vote, as updates to the register only take effect from February 15th.

Chairperson of the Public Accounts Committee Sean Fleming has said he wants the Dáil to pass a measure this week to ensure all these voters are on the register in time for an election.

Mr Fleming is calling for the Dáil to address the matter before it is dissolved this week.

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