Minister for Foreign Affairs Dermot Ahern has ruled out a general election on the same day as a referendum on the St Andrews Agreement.
With An Taoiseach Bertie Ahern due to call an election next year, Minister Ahern said it was inconceivable the Government would seek a new mandate on the same day as a referendum on the latest peace process deal in the North.
“If we were having a referendum it would be inconceivable,” he said. “I am giving you a personal view because it hasn’t even entered into our discussion.
“But I think it would be inconceivable that we would have a referendum on the St Andrews Agreement at the same time on the same day as a general election.”
Mr Ahern was responding on BBC Radio Ulster’s Inside Politics programme to speculation about the two polls taking place on the same day.
With the Irish and British governments committing themselves to either a referendum or fresh Northern Ireland Assembly election next March to ratify the St Andrews deal, the Taoiseach is believed to favour an all-Ireland referendum.
However opposition leaders in Ireland and Britain have expressed reservations.
Fine Gael leader Enda Kenny said in the event of there being no changes to the Irish constitution, the Dáil and not the Irish public should be asked to ratify or reject the St Andrews deal.
In the House of Commons, the Conservatives’ spokesman on the North David Lidington said this week it was "inappropriate for voters in the Republic to be asked to accept or reject a deal relating to the internal governance of a part of the United Kingdom".
“Whatever route the Republic of Ireland may intend to follow in this respect, it really would be constitutionally wrong for citizens of the Republic to vote in a referendum on a matter that related solely to the internal governance of the United Kingdom, and that a referendum in the Irish Republic should surely be confined to changes in that country’s constitution or system of government,” he said.