'Quickie' Finance Bill for early election
Noonan's officials have a shorter draft ready if Taoiseach goes to the polls
Finance Minister Michael Noonan's officials have prepared a "fast-tracked" version of the Finance Bill, in order to facilitate an early election should one be called, the Irish Independent can reveal.
Such is the growing anticipation of an election this side of Christmas, officials have set about drafting two versions of the bill - the normal long one and a shorter version, which could be rushed through the Oireachtas in less than a week.
Speaking to the Irish Independent, senior Government figures confirmed that the shorter bill has specifically been prepared in order to be ready for an early election.
"Yes, we have a shorter bill prepared in addition to the normal, longer Finance Bill. We will have both fully ready come Budget day in order to be ready, no matter what the Taoiseach decides to do," said one senior source.
The confirmation of the 'quickie' bill is the most tangible sign that Mr Kenny is likely to go to the country before his previously stated preference of spring 2016.
The shorter bill would simply give the legal effect to Budget measures, while the normal Finance Bill would include other Revenue Commissioner anomalies that have arisen during the year.
"The longer version would include a lot of stuff picked up by Revenue and other little bits that arise during the year. The smaller version would really be Budget measures and one or two other things, like the Knowledge Development Box," said the source.
Separately, senior figures within Fine Gael have talked up the chances of not even passing a Finance Bill this side of an election, saying there is no legal requirement to do so.
"There is some talk that we announce the Budget and then not bother with the bill until we are back," one source said.
"Given the fuss made by Fianna Fáil about passing the Finance Bill back in 2011, some people think it is necessary before an election is called. That is not the case," the source added.
Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin repeatedly pressed the Taoiseach about the timing of the election, given a request from the Oireachtas Banking Inquiry for additional time to prepare its report.
The implication is that were Mr Kenny to seek an early dissolution of the Dáil, the Inquiry would not be able to finish its work, as its mandate would have concluded.
Amid tetchy exchanges, Mr Kenny once again was less than definitive about his intentions, fuelling speculation that he is now planning an early election.
Responding to Mr Martin, he said: "This House will not collapse."
However, when Mr Martin specifically asked the Taoiseach as to the likelihood of an early election, Mr Kenny declined to address the question.
Attention is now turning toward tonight's weekly meeting of the Fine Gael Parliamentary Party, where it is expected Mr Kenny will be called on to clarify his position by TDs and Senators currently acting on the basis the election will be early.
Meanwhile, Environment Minister Alan Kelly has decided not to change the limits for election spending and reimbursement of expenses in advance of the next General Election.
Despite inflation of 5pc since the last change in 2007, Mr Kelly decided not to change the limits.
"I have made this decision at this time so candidates and prospective candidates will have certainty around spending and reimbursement limits," he said.
Under the terms of the Electoral Act 1997, Dáil candidates can be reimbursed their actual expenses or €8,700, whichever is less.