Kenny to leave door open for November election date
TAOISEACH Enda Kenny will today reaffirm his preference for a General Election next year but leave the door open for a November vote by suggesting his view could change.
A senior government official yesterday said Mr Kenny "never contradicted" his previous statements that his preference was for an election 2016 but emphasised that this is only his view "at present".
The Taoiseach is expected to "give clarity" to the issue this afternoon on RTE's The Week in Politics.
Meanwhile, Tanaiste Joan Burton, who last week insisted the election will be next year, has softened her cough on the issue, with Labour sources now saying the date is "the Taoiseach's prerogative".
However, Mr Kenny's continued refusal to rule out a post-Budget snap election will increase tension within the Coalition after a week of chaos over the election date.
The election debacle resulted in an ugly spat between Fine Gael and Labour ministers which has broken down trust within the Coalition and all but destroyed the Government's stability message.
And despite preparing for the biggest 'give away' budget in the Government's lifetime, ministers - stricken with paranoia - have begun sniping at each other as the Coalition's term in office nears an end.
Within Fine Gael, knives are out for Tanaiste Joan Burton who is perceived as being "obsessed" with attending events where positive announcements are being made. One Fine Gael minister said Ms Burton "wants to be in everybody's department" and "goes mad if she is not told about everything".
Ms Burton also infuriated Cabinet colleagues by insisting on increasing the Christmas bonus for social welfare recipients, which one minister described as "an old load of Fianna Fail s***e".
"People who are working resent this. Why would you do this? It's more free money for people who are not working," the Minister told the Sunday Independent.
There have also been Cabinet clashes over plans to increase the Respite Care Grant and the Living Alone Allowance. Environment Minister Alan Kelly also caused angst around the Cabinet table over his proposal to offer sweeteners to developers to sell homes to address the housing shortage.
But Ministers lashed out a Mr Kenny for "playing games" with the election date and suggested his handling of the issue was "incompetent".
"Joan should not have been put on the back foot over this. If he wants to be the big decision maker that's fine but he needs to realise the impact it has on us," a source said.
Analysis, pages 28-32