Be ready for election in November, Hogan tells FG activists
Former Environment Minister Phil Hogan has told a delegation of senior Fine Gael figures to be prepared for a November General Election.
Mr Hogan, who is Ireland's European Commissioner and a close confidante of Taoiseach Enda Kenny, said it is essential the party is in gear for the prospect of an early poll.
The former Fine Gael strategist made the remarks on Monday night at a strategy meeting in Brussels, which was attended by up to 60 of the party's constituency organisers.
A number of organisers who were at the meeting told the Irish Independent that Mr Hogan's contribution and suggestion of a November poll caused some surprise in the room.
"Certainly it left the impression that a November election is now firmly on the cards.
"Phil is obviously close to the Taoiseach," said one source.
Mr Kenny privately told party colleagues at the Fine Gael think-in earlier this month that he is "unsure" over what course of action to take.
However, a growing number of Fine Gael ministers, TDs and senators are now of the view that Mr Kenny is preparing to call an election after the Budget.
Finance Minister Michael Noonan is believed to be a keen advocate for an early General Election date.
Mr Kenny yesterday laughed off claims by former minister Ivan Yates that the election will be held on November 20.
"You can tell Ivan Yates I'll have a bet with him. And he'll lose," Mr Kenny said.
The remarks came after bookmakers' Paddy Power said it received a flurry of bets for a November poll.
Mr Kenny has been repeatedly saying the election will take place in 2016 and the Coalition will see out its full five-year term in office.
Fine Gael has moved forward its lucrative President's dinner to the weekend after the Budget. Originally it was scheduled to take place in November.
The rollout of the capital investment plan and the planned €1.5bn giveaway in the Budget has intensified speculation about the election being brought forward.
Mr Kenny's conservative nature, however, is pointing him towards the safety of a spring election date.
Tánaiste Joan Burton and the Labour Party would prefer an election next year to allow the party time to recover some support.
Opinion polls in recent months have shown some signs of a comeback by the Coalition parties, although they are still someway short of enough support to be returned to office.
Meanwhile, Fianna Fáil TD John Browne has confirmed he will be retiring.
Party leader Micheál Martin has paid tribute to the Wexford TD following his announcement that he will retire at the next General Election.
"On my own behalf and on behalf of the entire Fianna Fáil organisation, I want to thank John for his outstanding service in Dáil Éireann for the last 33 years.
"John has represented the people of Wexford with passion and unwavering commitment since 1982. He has served under three Taoisigh and has had an impressive impact upon public life," he said.
Mr Browne is expected to be replaced on the party ticket by his son, James, who is a sitting councillor in Wexford.