Sunday 18 August 2019

Brendan Howlin declares Labour are 'ready' for a general election

Brendan Howlin. Photo: Mark Condren
Brendan Howlin. Photo: Mark Condren

Sean Nolan

Labour leader Brendan Howlin has said that he thinks a general election is now '"likely to be called over the next week".

At a meeting of the Labour Party Parliamentary Party, the Wexford TD added that his party were "ready" for the election.

Mr Howlin described the situation of the last two weeks as "extraordinary" before saying that he felt an election was not yet inevitable.

“My judgement remains that there is still an opportunity for Fine Gael to reflect on this situation over the weekend. It is clear now that a majority of Dáil Éireann does not have confidence in the Tánaiste. If the Tánaiste resigns, the threat of an immediate election could pass, allowing the Taoiseach to focus on Brexit and other matters, as Fine Gael have made clear they want to. But if they are determined not to budge, then so be it.

However, if an election is called Mr Howlin said his party was ready.

“It seems likely now that an election will be called over the next week. And we are ready for it.

“We have been selecting candidates for the last six months - I am asking our organisational committee to meet on Monday to complete this work. Our campaigns and policy units will meet on Wednesday to sign off on our election campaign, our posters and leaflets, and to finish off work on our draft manifesto. And on Thursday, the Executive Board will meet.

“At that point we will have certainty regarding an election, and I will bring our complete election plan to that group for approval.

Earlier today Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin said his party "does not want a general election" and has called on Tanaiste Frances Fitzgerald to step down.

His ultimatum to Fine Gael follows the lodging of a motion of no confidence in Ms Fitzgerald by Fianna Fáil this morning.

The motion is over concerns about the way Ms Fitzgerald handled the whistleblower controversy during her time as Justice Minister, in particular her lack of response to an email outlining clashes between legal teams for An Garda Síochána and whistleblower Sergeant Maurice McCabe in 2015.

Foreign Affairs Minister Simon Coveney said there is "no reason for Frances Fitzgerald to resign" and accused Sinn Féin and Fianna Fáil of "trying to damage the government" by lodging the motion.

Speaking to RTÉ's Morning Ireland, Minister Coveney hit out at Fianna Fáil and accused them of trying to bring down the government for "political party reasons".

"What we are dealing with today is Fianna Fáil insisting on moving a motion of no confidence in a Tánaiste who is being accused of not protecting whistleblowers on the basis of facts that have not been established by a tribunal. We need to call this for what it is. This is reckless politics that is politically opportunistic to damage a Taoiseach who is doing a really good job and to a damage a government that is trying to move forward," he said.

However, Fianna Fáil is adamant that Mrs Fitzgerald should resign in the national interest so as to avoid an election. If the Dáil is dissolved in the coming days it is likely that a general election would be called at some point between December 15 and 23.

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