Belfast Telegraph

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar calls general election

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar
Taoiseach Leo Varadkar

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar has called a general election for Saturday, February 8.

The Taoiseach discussed the timing of an election with his government colleagues at a Cabinet meeting on Tuesday morning.

On Sunday, Mr Varadkar confirmed that he had decided on an election date, but "protocol" dictated he could not make an announcement.

Last week, he said the election will be held when "it’s the right time for the country".

"When you're in politics, you always have to be prepared for an election, at the same time you can always be better prepared for election but that's not what matters. What matters is when it's the right time for the country," he said.

However, he did say he would be holding a Cabinet meeting on Tuesday, today, and that the Dail would return the following day.

Meanwhile, it has emerged that Fine Gael general election candidates have been asked to sign a party pledge confirming there is nothing in their “past life” they have not revealed which could bring the party into disrepute.

At a parliamentary party meeting last week, candidates signed an amended pledge confirming they had revealed any matter, including views they may have held, which could be a breach of Fine Gael’s ethos and principles.

It follows a number of controversies involving previous candidates, including Maria Bailey and Verona Murphy.

The candidates were asked to confirm they had no pending prosecutions or prior convictions other than minor road traffic offences which resulted in fines of less than €500.

They pledged they had revealed any Revenue Commissioner, Work Place Relations, Labour Court or Office of the Director of Corporate Enforcement judgments made against them. Any civil litigation taken against them or their companies was also to be revealed to the party general secretary.

In the aftermath of the Maria Bailey controversy, Taoiseach Leo Varadkar said he would be instructing all election candidates to reveal any involvement in legal proceedings.

He said he would also introduce a new party pledge which all candidates would be required to sign.

The pledge was updated this month and given to candidates last week when they met in Dublin to discuss the forthcoming general election.

It also emerged yesterday Michael Martin has signed up to a televised head-to-head election debate with the Taoiseach on Virgin Media.

However, Mr Varadkar has yet to confirm he will take on the Fianna Fail leader in the debate being proposed by the station.

The Taoiseach's spokesperson said Mr Varadkar was looking forward to debating Mr Martin, but would consider all debates based on their merit.

RTE has yet to decide if it will hold a head-to-head debate featuring the leaders of the two main parties.

Meanwhile, former Fine Gael election candidate Verona Murphy has confirmed she is set to run as an Independent candidate in the forthcoming general election.

Ms Murphy confirmed to Independent.ie that she will mount a fresh bid for the Dail.

Her entry into the race will cause a headache for Fine Gael in the south east constituency where its two incumbent TDs, Paul Kehoe and Michael D’Arcy, are battling for re-election.

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