Belfast Telegraph

Taoiseach rules out Republic of Ireland general election before Christmas

Pressure: Leo Varadkar
Pressure: Leo Varadkar

By Philip Ryan and Hugh O’Connell

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar has firmly ruled out a general election before Christmas at a meeting of Fine Gael ministers this morning.

Mr Varadkar moved to dampen speculation that he would call an election next month after coming under increasing pressure to go to the polls from within in his own party.

There was mounting speculation that the Taoiseach would call a snap general election after Prime Minister Boris Johnson was given the green light to go to the polls on December 12.

However, Mr Varadkar has rejected the clamour for a pre-Christmas general election during the pause in the ongoing Brexit saga.

Mr Varadkar has repeatedly said that he favours holding a general election in May 2020 and has not publicly commented on the increased speculation of a snap November poll in recent days.

A senior Fine Gael source said that Mr Varadkar had "absolutely" ruled out a November election at a meeting of the party's senior ministers this morning prior to the weekly Cabinet meeting in Government Buildings. Another source said that Mr Varadkar left zero wriggle room in his remarks to his ministers and that there was no dissent at the meeting.

Speaking notes circulated within Fine Gael this morning urge the party's Ministers, TDs and Senators to state that the government is "pressing ahead with its work programme, creating jobs, growing the economy, and supporting families" and that the Taoiseach has made clear that May 2020 is his preferred date.

With the Brexit deadline extended and an election called in the UK, the Taoiseach has come under pressure from his own ranks to go to the country on November 29 - the date currently pencilled in for four Dáil by-elections - in recent days.

Fine Gael TD and former EU Affairs Minister Dara Murphy broke ranks yesterday to publicly declare that now is the right time for Mr Varadkar to go to the country. He joined the many ministers and Fine Gael TDs who are privately pressuring the Taoiseach to call a snap poll.

The Irish Independent reported earlier this week that many Fine Gael Cabinet ministers privately favoured a snap election in November.

Party sources also said that preparations for an election were "very advanced" with the manifesto and staffing arrangements almost finalised. One of Mr Varadkar's top advisers, John Carroll, is spearheading preparations. Some Fine Gael candidates have been receiving their orders for election posters in recent days.

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