Friday 17 January 2020

Taoiseach and Fianna Fail leader to meet again after ‘constructive’ talks

Leo Varadkar has not given a guarantee that the Dail will reconvene next Wednesday amid speculation a snap general election will be called soon.

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar said there is ‘never a good time’ for an election (Brian Lawless/PA)
Taoiseach Leo Varadkar said there is ‘never a good time’ for an election (Brian Lawless/PA)

By Aine McMahon, PA

The Taoiseach and the leader of Fianna Fail both had a “constructive” meeting on Thursday night and have agreed to meet again next week.

Leo Varadkar met Micheal Martin on Thursday amid continuing speculation over when the upcoming election will be held.

A short statement was issued following the meeting which lasted for around an hour.

The statement read: “They discussed Dail numbers and possible legislative proposals which could be passed in a further Dail session. They agreed to consider matters further and to meet again next week.”

Mr Varadkar has not guaranteed the Dail will return next Wednesday amid speculation a snap general election could be called before that.

Earlier on Thursday, at a post cabinet briefing in Marino in Dublin on Thursday, Mr Varadkar suggested his Government can continue over the coming weeks if Fianna Fail continues with their confidence and supply arrangement of abstaining in key Dail votes but admitted the numbers are “precarious”.

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Fianna Fail leader Micheal Martin (Brian Lawless/PA)

“The Cabinet is due to meet on Tuesday, the Dail will be reconvened on Wednesday – that is the position until such a time as that may change.”

Mr Varadkar was asked repeatedly if the date of a general election would be decided at tonight’s meeting.

“We’ll have to see how the meeting goes tonight… then I’ll be having discussions with my own party, with independents who support the Government, and of course the other parties too.”

Mr Varadkar said there is “never a good time” for an election, and that politicians can wait for “sweet spots that never actually arise”.

The outcome of tonight’s meeting between Mr Martin and Mr Varadkar could determine the timing of the general election.

Earlier on Thursday, Independent TD Michael Collins said he is seeking to table a motion of no-confidence in Health Minister Simon Harris.

Mr Harris responded by saying it will be the Taoiseach and not an Independent TD who would decide the timing of the next election.

Fianna Fail has been in a confidence and supply arrangement with Fine Gael since they failed to secure a majority in the last general election in 2016.

The confidence and supply agreement was extended in December 2018 amid Brexit uncertainty and to prevent a general election being held before 2020.

With the decisive election in the UK which saw a Conservative Government returned, there has been pressure on Fine Gael to call a general election if the revised Brexit deal passes the UK parliament.

Mr Varadkar has previously said his preferred date for holding the next general election is May 2020, but an ongoing housing crisis and a record number of people on hospital trolleys has seen the Government come under sustained pressure.

In December, Fine Gael Housing Minister Eoghan Murphy narrowly survived a motion of no confidence with the support of some independent TDs.

With a motion of no-confidence in the Health Minister Simon Harris set to be tabled by a number of Independent TDs if the Dail returns next week, the motion highlights how precarious support for the Government is.

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