February election on cards after Tory win

The country is heading for a general election at the end of February following British prime minister Boris Johnson’s “stunning victory” which has handed him an 80-seat majority.

February election on cards after Tory win

The country is heading for a general election at the end of February following British prime minister Boris Johnson’s “stunning victory” which has handed him an 80-seat majority.

As EU leaders breathed a collective sigh of relief at Mr Johnson’s decisive victory, it is now certain the UK will leave the EU at the end of January, clearing the way for an Irish election on February 28.

Five Cabinet ministers, speaking yesterday to the Irish Examiner, made it clear they are now actively working to a February deadline, and Taoiseach Leo Varadkar appeared to move away from his stated preference of a May election.

“I’ve always said that the election, if it’s my choice — it may not be my choice but if it is my choice — the election would happen at the right time for the country and that’s still not yet,” said Mr Varadkar.

Tánaiste Simon Coveney appeared to highlight the importance of the passage of the withdrawal agreement through the Commons before the end of January.

“We haven’t concluded what we want to conclude for Ireland and Brexit yet. We need to get the withdrawal agreement finalised and we need to see it ratified in the UK and of course in the European Parliament,” he said.

“I believe that will happen towards the end of January in the European Parliament, maybe even earlier in the British parliament, and that means that the United Kingdom will leave at the end of January.”

Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin again insisted his preference for an election is after Easter, calling for an orderly wind-down of the Government to allow important legislation to be passed by the Oireachtas.

There needs to be clarity and certainty about Brexit, he said.

“The natural cut-off point for this Dáil should be Easter. I am very clear on this. We need clarity and we need certainty now, because of the Brexit situation. There will be legislation, taking us up to the end of January,” he said.

“The new spring session will commence, I think, on the 15th of 16th of January. There are 34 days if you’d like to have an orderly wind-up.

"I think Easter, to me, is the natural cut-off point of this story.

“And I think Fianna Fáil has demonstrated a constructive approach.

“We’ve given stability to the country in the context of no-deal Brexit,” he said.

The final result of the general election in Britain saw the Conservatives win 365 seats, Labour 203, and the Liberal Democrats just 11.

In Scotland, the Scottish National Party won 48 of 59 seats.

The DUP won eight, Sinn Féin won seven — though the party’s MPs do not take their seats — while the SDLP won two, most notably in Foyle where Colm Eastwood won the seat from Sinn Féin’s Elisha McCallion with a 17,000-vote majority.

Mr Johnson’s rout of the Labour Party saw 54 seats, including some which have only ever voted Labour, turn to the Tories for the first time.

In his victory speech, Mr Johnson recognised those voters who traditionally voted Labour but who “lent” their vote to him.

“I have a message to all those who voted for us yesterday, especially those who voted for us Conservatives, one nation Conservatives for the first time.

"You may only have lent us your vote and you may not think of yourself as a natural Tory.

“Your hand may have quivered over the ballot paper before you put your cross in the Conservative box and you may intend to return to Labour next time round.

“And if that is the case, I am humbled that you have put your trust in me and that you have put your trust in us,” he said.

Despite his crushing defeat, Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn refused to resign immediately, but did say he will not lead his party into another general election.

Meanwhile, for the first time, unionists no longer hold a majority of the 18 seats in the House of Commons occupied by Northern Irish members.

The defeat of DUP deputy leader Nigel Dodds to Sinn Féin’s John Finucane capped off a difficult night for Arlene Foster’s party.

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