Tuesday 21 January 2020

Snap election chat riles Independent Cabinet ministers

Anxious: Minister Finian McGrath wants a date. Photo: Arthur Carron
Anxious: Minister Finian McGrath wants a date. Photo: Arthur Carron
Hugh O'Connell

Hugh O'Connell

Independent Cabinet ministers have piled pressure on the Taoiseach to set a date for the general election, as one labelled Fine Gael ministers and others "grossly irresponsible" for stoking election speculation.

Independent Alliance Minister Finian McGrath said Leo Varadkar needs to sit down with Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin and set a date in April or May of next year.

Another Independent in Cabinet, Katherine Zappone, called for certainty on the date of the next general election.

It comes as the Irish Independent has established that Opposition parties are reluctant to try to force a Dáil vote to collapse the Government in late January.

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Solidarity and Sinn Féin, who each have private members' time in the Dáil next month, both said that as it stands they would not table motions of no confidence in the Government or ministers to try to collapse the Dáil early in the new year.

Meanwhile, Mr McGrath hit out over the uncertainty about the election date.

"I think that it is grossly irresponsible for many of the parties and TDs and ministers to be discussing an election when we have major issues to deal with over the next couple of weeks," he told this newspaper.

"It is incumbent on the two party leaders to set the date before the Christmas break. The best thing to do is set the date this week."

Children's Minister Ms Zappone said in relation to the date of the next election, that "certainty would be better".

She also revealed she would be interested in working with either Fine Gael or Fianna Fáil in the next government.

A Fianna Fáil source said there had "not yet" been a meeting organised between the two leaders for this week.

The Taoiseach's spokesman said Mr Varadkar would meet Mr Martin before or just after Christmas and would not be discussing the matter through the media.

Mr Martin wrote to Mr Varadkar last week calling on him to agree a date for the next election.

But allies of the Taoiseach note that he asked Mr Martin to agree a date as far back as August 2018.

The confidence-and-supply parties agree an election should take place in April or May 2020, but privately admit there could be a snap poll in February caused by a Dáil motion of no confidence.

But Solidarity TD Mick Barry, who has private members' time on January 21, said: "It is not currently our intention to put down a motion of no confidence in January. Our intention at the moment is to put forward a bill or motion on some key issue facing working-class people."

Sinn Féin is also privately ruling out - for now - a bid to force a snap election in the new year. It has private members' time on January 28, but a party source said: "There are no plans. We took the view after our last motion that unless Fianna Fáil is willing to support it, there was no point."

The Dáil breaks tomorrow until January 15.

Irish Independent

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