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Saturday 24 February 2018

Ministers in both Fine Gael and Labour say they expect General Election to be on February 26

Enda Kenny. Photo: Niall Carson/PA Wire
Enda Kenny. Photo: Niall Carson/PA Wire

Niall O'Connor and Cormac McQuinn

Taoiseach Enda Kenny has told Cabinet that he will dissolve the Dáil tomorrow - but he did not divulge the election date.

Ministers in both Fine Gael and Labour have now concluded their final Cabinet meeting of the term.

Minsterial sources in both parties say they are working towards February 26 as the election. Though Thursday 25 has also been mentioned.

Despite confirming that the Dáil will be dissolved on Wednesday, Mr Kenny opted not to reveal the election date.

Two ministers have this morning given their views on when it should be held.

"I'm up for the election whenever it comes," Fine Gael Jobs Minister Richard Bruton replied when asked which day he'd prefer.

The junior minister in his Department, Ged Nash was more pointed saying his preference is for the Friday option.

"I was ready for November," he quipped - referring to speculation last year that the Taoiseach would go for a surprise date before Christmas.

"Look there are different views," Mr Nash added.

"What we know now is that we will have an election at the end of February whatever date that might be.

"There is a view and I’ve expressed it earlier on publically – my own preference would be Friday because I just think personally that it’s important that we facilitate and enable as many students as possible... to come home to vote in their constituencies".

There has been speculation that Fine Gael would prefer the Thursday so that polling day doesn't clash with thousands of potential voters traveling to Twickenham for the Irish rugby clash with England on Saturday February 27.

Both ministers were speaking at Government Buildings as they welcomed the latest figures that show unemployment is down to 8.6pc, a fall of 30,500 over the last year.

On the rumours about the election arrangements Mr Bruton said: "This is clearly the prerogative of the Taoiseach and he will make his announcement in due course.

"But whatever the timing I think the options are very clear. We’ve had between Fine Gael and Labour coalition that has managed our economy to create a recovery that now is bringing unemployment down to 8.6pc and we are clearly planning to build on that and to keep the recovery going...

"The people have a choice to make as to whether we are the best party to do that as a coalition government and deliver the improvements that people want to see for the future."

Meanwhile, the ministers responded to reports that some candidates have started erecting posters on lampposts, in violation of strict rules and risking a €150 littering fine from the local authorities.

"I’m not going to comment on obligations of different local authorities and what approach they will take," Mr Bruton said.

Mr Nash put the early postering down to "overly enthusiastic volunteers".

"As Richard said local authorities have their own rules and local authorities will implement the rules so we’ll see what happens there. I think it’s just overenthusiasm," he added.

Meanwhile, Sinn Féin today claimed that the Fine Gael's numbers in relation to the economy "don't add up".

The party made the charge after launching a new campaign ad which attacks Fine Gael's tax projections.

“Fine Gael has been caught out on its election promises to abolish the USC.  This was the main plank of its campaign but it simply doesn’t stand up to scrutiny," said the party's finance spokesperson Pearse Doherty.

 “It has now scrambled its figures to try and make out that there is more fiscal space which allows it to invest in public services while scrapping the USC.  This is wrong," he added.


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