Saturday 24 September 2016

Alan Kelly: 'Phoney war is over and the public are ready for the election'

Cormac McQuinn Political Correspondent

Published 01/02/2016 | 13:21

Enviroment Minister, Alan Kelly pictured at the new Modular homes at Poppintree
Enviroment Minister, Alan Kelly pictured at the new Modular homes at Poppintree

ENVIRONMENT Minister Alan Kelly expects the Taoiseach to dissolve the Dáil imminently, saying "the tickling is over, the phoney war is complete and I think the public now are ready for the election."

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Mr Kelly said he didn't know whether Taoiseach Enda Kenny will call the election tomorrow or not but said that he expects it "this week".

And he reiterated his view that a Friday vote is his preference amid suggestions that Fine Gael may seek a surprise Thursday polling day.

Mr Kelly was this morning at Dublin's O'Brien Institute which trains the country's fire-fighters. He announced €40m in funding for fire station construction projects around the country over the next four years.

On the subject of the calling of the election he said dissolving the Dáil is a "matter for the Taoiseach".

"I expect it very soon, yes. I would expect that it will be this week."

Asked if the election date will be Friday, February 26 he said:

"Well, you know that’s what the majority are saying and I wouldn’t differentiate from that. It remains to be seen but personally speaking I think that the public now want the election to be held.

"For want of a better phrase, you know, the tickling is over, the phoney war is complete and I think the public now are ready for the election."

It has been reported that Fine Gael may consider a Thursday polling day - due to the Ireland rugby game in England on Saturday February 27 and a fear that some of their voters may travel to Twickenham on the Friday, potentially depriving the party of thousands of votes.

Mr Kelly, whose Department signs off on the election arrangements was asked by Independent.ie if he has the power to block a Thursday polling day.

"The prerogative of the Taoiseach is to dissolve the Dáil.

"Legally the minister for the environment sets the polling day, sets the conditions around the polling day – which is the times of polling and various other technical things.

"But seen as how we as the government have lasted five years and come through the largest economic crisis in the history of the State I don’t think we’re going to fall out at the very end over a polling day."

Asked again if he would accept a Thursday polling day Mr Kelly didn't say if he would attempt to block it or not, instead he reiterated his preference for a Friday election pointing out that he's said that "all along quite publicly and quite deliberately".

"There’s many people who commute and come home on a Friday. I believe we should maximise the opportunity and give them the opportunity to vote and I’ve said that numerous times this weekend," Mr Kelly said.

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