Saturday 16 December 2017

Fine Gael plans date for next general election

Enda Kenny: has moved to quell doubts over future
Enda Kenny: has moved to quell doubts over future

Fionnan Sheahan Political Editor

FINE Gael is already planning the date of the next general election to ensure the party is still in office for the 100th anniversary of the Easter Rising.

Party strategists have worked out the actual dates for a general election campaign by stretching the rules to the limit, the Irish Independent understands.

Although the Labour Party is deliberately casting doubt over the future of the Government, their coalition partners are looking ahead to April 8, 2016 as polling day in the next general election.

Moreover, Taoiseach Enda Kenny yesterday committed the Government to seeing out its full five-year term.

Dismissing suggestions of the government parties being at odds over a bank debt deal, Mr Kenny said that the Coalition was not in jeopardy.

However, the approach to securing a debt deal and drafting abortion laws still present sensitive challenges to the Government.

Mr Kenny has moved to quell suggestions of the Government collapsing if it can't get a deal on the bank debt.

The Taoiseach also said the Coalition still expects a deal on the Anglo Irish Bank debt before the next €3.1bn repayment is due in March.

Labour ministers have adopted a different approach to Fine Gael on emphasising the consequences for the Government of not securing a deal.

But senior Labour Party figures are unapologetic about cranking up the rhetoric on the importance of a bank debt deal.

"Softly, softly hasn't sealed the deal yet. It's not a one-size-fits-all approach," a senior party source said.

Provided the Government stays its full course, Mr Kenny can still be Taoiseach for US President Barack Obama's final St Patrick's Day in office and the 1916 Rising celebrations.

Both significant events would take place in the middle of the general election campaign.

The coalition parties would obviously be hoping for a boost from Easter commemorations – particularly if the country has emerged from the bailout and regained its sovereignty.

The Constitution and associated electoral laws allows the Government to go well beyond the February 25, 2011 date of the last general election or the March 9, 2011, date of the first sitting of the Dail.

Under the electoral laws, the Government doesn't have to call a general election until the actual fifth anniversary of the Dail sitting.

From there, the date of the general election has to be within 25 days, but this doesn't include Sundays, Bank Holidays, St Patrick's Day, Good Friday and Easter Sunday.

"April 8, 2016 is the election day," a senior government source said.

The prize on offer is being in power for the 1916 Rising commemoration in 2016. Rather than waiting until the actual dates of the Rising in mid-April, the Government plans to hold the commemorations on Easter Sunday, in line with past anniversaries.

Aside from the centenary, Fine Gael and Labour are aware of former Taoiseach John Bruton's decision to go to the people too early in 1997 – the last time the parties were in power.

Mr Kenny said yesterday that the Coalition was going to last its full five-year term and was "not in jeopardy".

But Labour Party figures have expressed concern about the future of the Coalition if there is no deal on bank debt.

Tanaiste Eamon Gilmore is reputed to have told EU leaders there would be a question mark over the viability of the Government if there was no debt deal.

Mr Gilmore also spoke of the "catastrophic" consequences for Ireland of no deal being struck.

But Mr Kenny denied there was any threat to the stability of the Government.


"The Government is not in jeopardy. The Tanaiste as leader of the Labour Party and I as leader of Fine Gael are absolutely committed to running a full term in this administration," he said.

A group of Independent TDs yesterday brought a private members' motion on the promissory note issue, which will continue to be debated today.

But the Government has rejected calls from the group to simply refuse to pay the next instalment due at the end of March.

Minister of State Brian Hayes said that refusing to pay would be considered a default and would have disastrous knock-on effects.

Irish Independent

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