Dáil dissolved as Taoiseach Enda Kenny calls General Election for Friday 26 February
TAOISEACH Enda Kenny left Tánaiste Joan Burton at Government Buildings for the short trip to Áras an Uachtaráin saying “This is not goodbye”.
Less than an hour earlier Mr Kenny told the Dáil he would be meeting President Michael D Higgins this morning to formally ask him to dissolve the 31st Dáil.
He announced the election date - Friday February 26 - on Twitter and the phoney war was over - the election campaign is officially over way.
Mr Kenny entered the Dáil chamber at 9:32 to make the briefest of statements to announce that it will not sit again until March 10.
The Fine Gael leader wished TDs who are not seeking re-election the best for the future and good luck to those going before the people.
As Gaelige he said: “St Brigid’s Day has passed and spring has arrived.”
Within two minutes he had left the chamber again as opposition TDs complained they had no opportunity to speak.
Fianna Fáil minister Michéal Martin said he had wanted to say farewell to departing TDs while party colleague Timmy Dooley claimed: “The Taoiseach has formally gone into hiding”.
“A pathetic end to a pathetic Dáil,” added Sinn Féin’s Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin while People Before Profit’s Richard Boyd Barrett said “There is supposed to be a vote”.
Mr Kenny then posted his announcement of the election date on Twitter.
“For the first time in a generation the choices you face is as stark as it is clear,” he told voters.
“is a clear choice between continuing on the path of recovery with Fine Gael or putting your hard won progress at risk by handing it over to those who wrecked our country in the past or those who would wreck it in the future,” he warned while emphasising his party’s “long term economic plan”
Shortly after 10am Mr Kenny emerged from Government Buildings in the company of Labour leader Ms Burton.
They shook hands and Mr Kenny quipped “this is not goodbye” before he got into a State car for the short journey to Áras an Uachtaráin.
Ms Burton then spoke to reporters outlining her views on the coalitions achievements.
“The real test of any government is whether it leaves the country in a better place and I can say of the Labour Fine Gael government that we have definitely done that,” she said.
“We inherited a ruin and we’ve rebuilt it. Yesterday’s unemployment figures - down to 8.6pc from a high of over 15pc is a real indication that people all over Ireland are getting back to work, they’re getting employment and they’re opening up businesses.
““We couldn’t do everything we would have wished. We now have a very ambitious capital programme particularly for areas that need special attention such as housing and health,” she added.
Asked to respond to opposition criticism on the manner in which Mr Kenny told the Dáil he was going to the Áras, Ms Burton said he had done it “exactly right” and followed the constitution.
“I do recall on previous occasions people have gone to see the President on a Sunday morning...
“So I think the Taoiseach has done it very, very well - gone in and said what is constitutionally required and he’s now left to meet President Higgins,” Mr Burton said.
The Tánaiste faces a tough battle to be re-elected in the tight Dublin West constituency and was asked if this would be her last time addressing the media at government buildings.
She also name-checked St Brigid.
“Well let me just say this is Seachtain Naomh Bríd which is also the week of my own birthday. She was a very powerful woman and role model in early Irish history and I have to say I’m delighted to be the first woman leader of the Labour Party.
“I would be very confident and hopeful - it’s in the hands of the people - that I will return here and I will continue to work for people in Ireland. It’s a great privilege to be a member of a government. It’s an enormous privilege to be a Tánaiste and it’s now in the hands of the people,” she said.
Mr Kenny was given a Garda escort for the trip to the Phoenix Park.
President Michael D Higgins signed the papers to dissolve the Dáil shortly after 11am.