General election to be held on February 26, Enda Kenny announces
Taoiseach Enda Kenny has announced on Twitter that a general election will be held on February 26.
Mr Kenny informed the Dail he was seeking its dissolution but only revealed the date of the poll in a video message posted on the social networking site.
He made the announcement before travelling to President Michael D Higgins's official residence, Aras an Uachtarain in Dublin, to formally ask him to dissolve the 31st Dail.
The new Dail will sit again on March 10 after what will be one of the shortest general election campaigns in Irish political history.
In his video message, Mr Kenny fired the opening salvo of the three-week campaign by stating Ireland was on the verge of collapse and its international reputation was in tatters when he came to power five years ago.
"Five years on we still have many challenges and the job is not yet finished, but working together we have made real progress," he said.
"Our public finances are back on track, the economy is growing again - faster than any country in the EU - 135,000 more people are back at work, and there is no more bailout, no more troika and no more dead banks.
"Ireland is now clearly moving in the right direction."
Mr Kenny's centre-right Fine Gael party and his junior coalition partners Labour are hoping to be returned to power, with a key message of their campaign being stability during the economic recovery.
Labour leader and Tanaiste Joan Burton said the coalition was a "very united" government that had turned the country around.
"The real test of any government is whether they leave the country in a better place and I will say with the Fine Gael-Labour Government we have definitely done that," she said.
"We inherited a ruin and we rebuilt it."
Fianna Fail leader Micheal Martin attacked the Taoiseach for not allowing anyone else speak in the Dail before its dissolution, saying he had hoped to pay tribute to veteran party colleagues not seeking re-election.
"I thought it was it was a shabby end to a shabby government," he said.
"I presumed I would get that opportunity, but people saw the Taoiseach made a speech and ran out of the house - it just didn't look well in terms of the national parliament conducting its business."
Mr Martin accused Fine Gael of regressive policies which he said suited only the wealthiest in society.
"Fine Gael don't care about people who need housing, people who need proper access to healthcare - they just look after the top 20," he added, signalling his party's campaign would focus on homelessness, healthcare, education and crime prevention.
Sinn Fein leader Gerry Adams also criticised the Taoiseach's closing of parliament as a "pathetic end to a pathetic government".
"Fine Gael and Labour have presided over some of the most reprehensible policy decisions ever made by a government in this State, and they have brought chaos to the lives of ordinary citizens," he said.
"They cut child benefit, the back to school allowance, the respite care grant, 1.5 million home help hours, and they abolished the bereavement grant.
"They promised a new health service. Instead, last year, we saw the highest number of patients on trolleys since records began and we have the worst A&E waiting times in Europe.
"The aim of this government, if re-elected this time around, is to privatise healthcare."
Mr Adams said for the first time since the foundation of the State, there is an opportunity for "real change".
"The choice is between two visions for Irish society," he said.
"A Fine Gael led government that will deliver more of the same unfairness and inequality, or a Sinn Fein led government that has a plan to deliver a fair recovery for all citizens, and put stability back into the lives of the average family."