Tuesday 17 September 2019

Taoiseach says Fine Gael 'almost' ready for an election but says he will not call one before the end of the year

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar pictured speaking at the opening of the Fine Gael Ard Fheis Picture Credit: Frank McGrath
Taoiseach Leo Varadkar pictured speaking at the opening of the Fine Gael Ard Fheis Picture Credit: Frank McGrath
Foreign Affairs Minister Simon Coveney pictured at the Fine Gael Ard Fheis Picture Credit:Frank McGrath
Leader of Fianna Fail Micheal Martin
Leo Varadkar will try to hammer out an agreement with Micheal Martin

Kevin Doyle and Laura Larkin

TAOISEACH Leo Varadkar has said he will not be calling a general election before the end of the year – but said it may out of his hands.

As Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil prepare to enter a fourth week of talks on the renewal of their Confidence and Supply arrangement, Mr Varadkar said his party are “almost” election ready.

He expressed a preference to secure an extension to the current government’s lifespan until summer 2020 but warned that if Fianna Fáil's price is too high, he will go to the country in the New Year.

“Any political party has to be ready for an election. We have a minority government and a confidence and supply agreement that was for three budgets. Now we’re beyond three budgets.

“We’re fairly ready but not 100pc,” Mr Varadkar said.

He was speaking at Fine Gael’s Ard Fheis in Dublin, where members are debating what the party’s key policies should be for the year ahead.

Asked whether there was any risk of an election before Christmas, Mr Varadkar said that was not in his plan but “these things aren’t entirely under my control”.

“I don’t have any plans to seek a dissolution of the Dáil this side of Christmas. But it’s not entirely in my hands. Fianna Fáil could withdraw support at any time or potentially, although I don’t anticipate it, people who are serving in government now could leave it,” he said.

The Taoiseach added that he would like to see the abortion legislation get through the Dáil before an election.

In reference to the ongoing uncertainty over Brexit, he said: “My primary interest is not going to be electoral interest at the moment. It’s looking after the interest of the country we’re charged to lead.”

However, he said that while the minority government has achieved more than he envisaged since 2016, the ‘new politics’ arrangement has also lead to some legislation being delayed.

“The country is very much on track. It is my view that a majority government led by Fine Gael would be able to get a lot more done.

“We have seen in the Dáil over the last couple of months, important legislation getting held up, being delayed because we don’t have a majority in the Dáil and the Seanad.”

Read More: John Downing: 'Fianna Fáil should back stability - there is enough chaos over in UK'

The Taoiseach was speaking after Foreign Affairs Minister Simon Coveney said at the Ard Fhéis this morning that Fine Gael need 'clarity' on the future of the Confidence and Supply deal.

ne Gael Ard Fheis 2.jpg
Foreign Affairs Minister Simon Coveney pictured at the Fine Gael Ard Fheis Picture Credit:Frank McGrath

Tanáiste Simon Coveney warned today: “We will not stay in Government without clarity in terms of the Confidence and Supply agreement.

“You cannot run a government working week to week...That’s why these negotiations are serious in terms of trying to provide stability,” he said.

The turbulence in the UK this week shows what political instability looks like he said.

Leo Varadkar’s party is ramping up pressure to move to a renegotiating a new deal rather than looking back on the current deal.

Already officials from Housing, Health, Agriculture and Education have met with the teams but Fianna Fáil have said the review is not complete.

Mr Coveney said Fine Gael don’t want this process to go on forever but said he is happy with how the talks are progressing to date.

The party’s message at its Ard Fhéis in Fine Gael is that it is election ready, Justice Minister Charlie Flanagan said, adding that the the printing machines are “well oiled”.

Mr Coveney added: “We are a party that is election ready we are certainly not taking for granted the successful outcome of the Confidence and Supply discussions.”

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