Fine Gael may not win early election, Leo Varadkar says
Irish premier Leo Varadkar has said he may not win an early general election.
Mr Varadkar made the comment as he revealed he cannot guarantee the next election will not be called before the planned 2020 date.
His government relies on a confidence-and-supply deal between his Fine Gael party and their political rivals Fianna Fail.
There was speculation earlier this year that the two parties would not be able to reach an agreement to extend the deal.
It entails support for legislation implementing next year's budget and enables the fragile minority coalition Government to operate for another 12 months.
A new deal was confirmed in November but Mr Varadkar said he cannot rule out calling a general election before the planned date in 2020.
"The situation is that we've agreed that there won't be an election, given the uncertainty around Brexit, and that we, as Fine Gael and independents in government, that with Fianna Fail we will try to negotiate another budget," he said.
"There's always the possibility that we won't be able to negotiate that budget.
"I can't give an absolute guarantee.
"What I sought was that we agree an election date in 2020. Fianna Fail decided not to accept that, so that was an offer that was on the table - an agreed election date in 2020.
"Fianna Fail decided not to accept that and proposed an alternative which was that we negotiate one more budget."
Mr Varadkar also said he is conscious if there is an early election, he may not win it.
"People might get elected to the European Parliament for example, and that would be a vote gone," he said.
"Sadly, politicians, on occasion, become sick and die.
"The fundamental question when you're in government is: are you able to govern? Are you able to get your legislative programme through? Are you able to implement your policies to the benefit of the Irish people? And that's the fundamental question.
"So as long as we can do that, we're in government. And I'm very conscious that if there was an election, I mightn't win it."
Fianna Fail leader Micheal Martin previously said it was in the national interest to have political stability as Ireland faced the prospect of a no-deal Brexit.
The historic pact between two parties founded from opposing sides of Ireland's Civil War of the 1920s was struck following an inconclusive 2016 general election.
It lasted for three budgets.
Following the third and final budget in October, negotiating teams from both parties engaged in talks aimed at securing an extension.
The renewed deal will last the duration of 2019. The country will go to the polls in early 2020.
Belfast Telegraph Digital