Thursday 18 January 2018

No snap vote after Kenny steps aside, says Varadkar

Social Protection Minister Leo Varadkar. Photo: Tom Burke
Social Protection Minister Leo Varadkar. Photo: Tom Burke

Kevin Doyle and Cormac McQuinn

A snap election in Ireland should not be on the table in the aftermath of the Fine Gael leadership contest, Leo Varadkar has said.

The frontrunner to replace Enda Kenny as Taoiseach said it would not be right to "pull the rug" from under the Independents who signed up to the minority Government.

He also argued that circumstances in Britain are "very particular" given the huge lead Theresa May's Conservative Party has in the polls.

"I'm sure or I hope the new leader of Fine Gael will give the party a bounce. I don't think we'll be 20 points ahead in the polls.

"We're in a very different situation as well, where we've entered a partnership with Independents.

"I think it would be wrong for the new leader of Fine Gael to pull the rug out from under people we've made a partnership with. I wouldn't anticipate an early general election in Ireland," Mr Varadkar said.

Sources last night indicated the Government here intends to "stay out" of the campaign.

In an unprecedented move during last year's Brexit referendum, ministers did campaign for a 'Remain' vote but sources said the election is "purely an internal British decision".

Taoiseach Enda Kenny and Mrs May held a 15-minute telephone conversation about her plans to hold an election.

The leaders agreed their public commitments regarding Irish issues ahead of the Brexit negotiations remain "unchanged".

A spokesman for Mr Kenny said both governments are still prioritising the protection of an open Border and the retention of the common travel area.

They also discussed the need to recognise the "close trading links between our intertwined economies".

Foreign Affairs Minister Charlie Flanagan said: "This announcement does not change the Government's commitment to ensuring the best possible outcome for Ireland in the upcoming Brexit negotiations, where we will negotiate from a position of strength as one of the EU 27."

Mr Varadkar said he does not believe the election will stall the Brexit negotiations while a new British government is formed.

"I think any delay is going to be a relatively short one.

"People have always appreciated the outcome of the French election is going to be important, too. The outcome of that election will have as much, if not greater bearing, on these negotiations than Britain's. I think any delay is going to be a matter of weeks," he said.

However, he warned that the widely held expectation that Mrs May will win a large majority in the House of Commons could prove wrong.

"Elections are funny things. They can start off with one expected result and finish with something else. It's going to be interesting to watch," Mr Varadkar said.

Irish Independent

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