Wednesday 19 June 2019

Tanaiste rules out early general election

Leo Varadkar and Simon Coveney in the Dail (PA)
Leo Varadkar and Simon Coveney in the Dail (PA)

Ralph Riegel

TÁNAISTE Simon Coveney ruled out an early general election as speculation mounted that the Government may opt to go to the country before Christmas rather than stage a series of potentially risky by-elections.

The by-elections have been triggered by the European Parliament ballot with Wexford-based Independent TD Mick Wallace and Cork-based former Fianna Fáil Minister Billy Kelleher both elected to Brussels in Ireland South.

Both elections will now require by-elections in Cork and Wexford.

Some Fine Gael analysts have argued for a pre-Christmas general election rather than a series of by-elections which could prove damaging to the Government.

However, the Tánaiste flatly ruled out any question of an early general election.

"That will be a call for the Taoiseach (Leo Varadkar) - and, to be fair, a call for the Opposition leader as well, Micheál Martin," he said.

"We have a Confidence & Supply Agreement with Fianna Fáil and it is working well. It is providing stability in Ireland when we need it, particularly in the context of Brexit."

"Those decisions will be made in the autumn. But I can tell you the Government has no plans for an early election."

Under existing agreements with Fianna Fáil, Fine Gael can push the timing of a general election to 2020 - with both parties agreed that the challenges posed by Brexit need to be resolved.

Mr Coveney stressed that the timing of the next general election will be entirely a matter for Mr Varadkar.

"That is above my pay grade, I'm afraid. I looked for that job and didn't get it," he joked.

But the Cork TD refused to be drawn on the potential damage for the Government if by-elections in Cork and Wexford are fought and lost.

"Like I said, we have no plan for a general election any time soon," he said.

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