No general election until spring, says Flanagan
The general election will take place in "35 weeks' time", according to Foreign Affairs Minister Charlie Flanagan, who said he is confident voters will go to the polls next spring.
Mr Flanagan's comments are the most specific pronouncement yet from a senior Cabinet minister in relation to the timing of the election, despite recent speculation of an autumn poll. His prediction would see an election campaign getting underway at the end of February next year.
Mr Flanagan said he feels the next Government will again be a "Fine Gael-led" coalition which includes the Labour Party.
"I expect there will be an election in 35 weeks' time. I say 35 weeks because there is 35 weeks of work to do. The Programme for Government is not yet complete," Mr Flanagan said.
In a wide-ranging interviewing with the Irish Independent, the Laois/Offaly TD denounced Sinn Féin as having the potential to plunge the country into economic meltdown if elected to office. He said the public finances have been stabilised even if by doing so, families have been "caused a lot pain".
But Mr Flanagan said Ireland is "now the pride of Europe" in terms of our economic growth.
"Everywhere I go, I accept plaudits for the economic growth and people say to me to give my regards to Enda Kenny as he has done a very good job," he said.
"I believe the election will be next year because we have about 30,000 jobs to create between now and then," he said.
Asked to explain the relentless speculation about a November election, Mr Flanagan said: "There is evidence of election planning. Over the next few months, all of our conventions will have been held. We are looking at parts of the Programme for Government that need to be completed."
He said he wants to see cuts to the Universal Social Charge in October's Budget as a cut will be a major contributor to creating jobs.
Mr Flanagan spoke to the Irish Independent last Thursday in the wake of the Berkeley balcony tragedy which claimed the lives of six young Irish students and before yesterday's opinion poll which showed a four-point jump in support for Fianna Fáil.
Despite the polls showing the Coalition being well short of a majority in terms of opinion poll support, he said the next Government will be a "Fine Gael-led Government" made up of Fine Gael and Labour.
He said the Coalition has done particularly well in terms of cohesion and that stability is its greatest asset.
He said the country's recovery is best guaranteed by re-electing Fine Gael and Labour.
Mr Flanagan ruled out any type of a deal between Fine Gael and Sinn Féin, saying the latter's economic policies are a recipe for destruction.
"I don't envisage any circumstances in which Fine Gael would go into government with Sinn Féin," he said.
Mr Flanagan also spoke about his father Oliver Flanagan, who was a Fine Gael TD and minister.
He recounted one story of an assassination attempt on his father's life. "I witnessed break-outs, threats and my father was a Fine Gael TD and minister in the 1970s.
"I can recall threats to his life. I can recall one particular incident where a bomb was detonated at a house in Garryhinch (Co Offaly), three miles from my home. Word came through that my father was to be assassinated," he said.
"When the guards went out, a booby trap bomb was detonated, resulting in the death of Garda Michael Clerkin and the injuring of three other outstanding members of the force."