Thursday 29 September 2016

A fellah at the Ploughing told me the exact date of the General Election...

Published 26/09/2015 | 02:30

Taoiseach Enda Kenny with Anna May McHugh arriving to the 2015 National Ploughing Championships in Ratheniska, County Laois on Wednesday morning
Pic:Mark Condren
23.9.2015
Taoiseach Enda Kenny with Anna May McHugh arriving to the 2015 National Ploughing Championships in Ratheniska, County Laois on Wednesday morning Pic:Mark Condren 23.9.2015

A snapshot of all life in Ireland, the Ploughing Championship is also the ultimate political melting pot.

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Outside of Leinster House, it's the only part of the landscape where you see political colours of all hues.

Pretty much every politician worth their salt from outside Dublin will turn up over the three days.

Even if you don't make it, you have to say you did.

"Sure I didn't make it down at all last year. But I told everyone at home I was there and the crowd was huge and it was great. Sure that's all they want to hear. There's so many there, they wouldn't know if you were or not," a TD sagely opined yesterday.

Down in Ratheniska, near the Fine Gael in Block 3, Row 22, I met a well informed political figure and talk soon moved to the date of the General Election. "I can tell you the date," says he definitively.

"How do you know it?" says I, taken aback.

"Enda Kenny told me. It's the Friday before St Patrick's Day."

At the moment, the Taoiseach is coming under immense pressure to call the General Election this side of Christmas.

Senior Fine Gael figures, believed to include Finance Minister Michael Noonan, want it out of the way in November and argue there is no advantage to holding on until the New Year and handing extra time to opponents to get organised.

The logic behind March 11, 2016, is actually quite sound. Indeed, officials from Fine Gael and Labour are understood to have discussed this as a potential date.

The General Election has to be held sometime before April 9, 2016.

The pre-Paddy's Day date is advantageous for a number of reasons.

The weather: A veteran like Enda Kenny will know canvassing in the dark, cold, wet nights of winter isn't a great experience. Going for March would see the campaign happen during the longer evenings of spring.

Patrick's Day: Of course, the Dáil doesn't sit the day after the General Election. Going with March 11 would mean the result is known but ministers would still set off around the world on the annual St Patrick's Day diplomatic, cultural and business trips across the world. The Taoiseach would also go to the White House.

Stability: By staying in office for the full five year term, Fine Gael and Labour will portray a stable administration seeking re-election.

Commemorations: The hiatus between the General Election date and the first sitting of the Dáil often lasts several weeks.

This time around, it is expected the formation of a new government will take some time, so the Dáil would sit in the first week of April.

The 100th anniversary commemorations of the 1916 Easter Rising will take place at the end of March.

The Taoiseach and his ministers would be on the podium on O'Connell Street, regardless of the outcome of the General Election, as they would still be in office.

Irish Independent

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