Taoiseach not ruling out early election ahead of showdown with Martin
- Varadkar says he can't predict outcome of meeting
- Opposition want both parties to call an election
TAOISEACH Leo Varakdar has not ruled out calling an early election ahead of his meeting with Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin this evening.
Speaking after Cabinet he repeatedly failed to guarantee that the Dáil will return from its Christmas break next week.
Mr Varadkar said he couldn't predict the outcome of his meeting with Mr Martin which is aimed at agreeing an election date.
He also said that the restoration of the power-sharing institutions in the North is not a prerequisite for holding an election here.
However, he appeared to allow some wriggle room on his demand that Fianna Fáil to vote with the minority government to ensure key legislation is passed suggesting the Dáil could continue with Mr Martin's party abstaining in votes.
He said: “It is the case that with Fianna Fáil continuing to abstain that the government can continue and that we have, I believe sufficient votes to get our legislative programme through but obviously the numbers are also very precarious.
“That's something obviously I'll have to discuss with the leader of Fianna Fáil tonight.”
Asked if he could guarantee that the Dáil will return next week Mr Varadkar replied: "I can’t predict the outcome of the conversation I’m going to have with the leader of Fianna Fáil tonight".
He said he'll also have to consult with Fine Gael, the Independent Alliance, other independent ministers, independents who support the government and other parties.
Asked again if the Dáil will return from its recess next Wednesday, he said: "The Cabinet is due to meet on Tuesday.
"The Dáil will be reconvened on Wednesday and that is the position until such time as it may change."
He also insisted it was not a yes or no answer and said: "If I thought I could predict the future I’d have a column in a newspaper…
"We’ll have to see what happens over the next couple of days."
Both Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil have been told by the opposition parties to “stop play-acting” and call a general election now.
Labour and Sinn Féin intensified pressure on Taoiseach Leo Varadkar to set a date for the election ahead of a meeting between the Fine Gael leader and his Fianna Fáil counterpart Micheál Martin to discuss the matter on Thursday evening.
Labour leader Brendan Howlin said that “limping on for a number of weeks is a waste of time” and that everyone in the Dáil agrees that its lifespan has “run its course”.
Speaking on the plinth at Leinster House Mr Howlin said: “I think you don't limp on in a dysfunctional parliament. Everybody is in election mode, everybody is looking over their shoulder.
“I think you will see very unsatisfactory arrangements with a constant election mode set of promises that will undermine further public confidence in public administration.
“So a sort of a phoney election for a number of weeks would be infinitely worse than an actual election that allows people to present their policies and how they're going to solve the real issues and ask people to support them.”
Sinn Féin TD David Cullinane said the meeting between the two leaders was “more play-acting, more political drama” to create “false tension” between Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil.
Mr Cullinane told journalists at Leinster House: “People are sick of the play acting from these parties. If there is going to be an election, then there should be an election.
“We believe that it's time now to bring an end to a government that has run its course, it has run out of road, confidence and supply hasn't worked from our perspective and we think that leaders should call the election and let the people have their say.”