Taoiseach ‘serious’ about 2020 election proposal as the ‘country needs stability’


Taoiseach Leo Varadkar (Brian Lawless/PA)
Taoiseach Leo Varadkar (Brian Lawless/PA)
Leo Varadkar: Frank McGrath

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar has said his proposal for a 2020 election was a “serious” one, after Fianna Fáil leader Michaél Martin said he was “chancing his arm” to suggest it.

Mr Martin was speaking after the pair met in Kerry to discuss a possible extension of the confidence and supply deal underpinning the Government. He said a suggestion that the deal be extended and a general election be held in 2020 “wasn’t discussed”.

“He threw it out, but there wasn’t any serious discussion. There’s a bit of chancing the arm going on there,” he said.

However Mr Varadkar said the pair will discuss the suggestion again in September when they next meet.

“I wasn’t chancing my arm, it was a serious proposal. And the proposal stands,” he said.

Mr Varadkar said the “country needs stability” and that’s why he believes a 2020 election is prudent – despite polls showing gains for his party, while Fianna Fáil are declining.

“We are heading into a period over the next couple of months where we are going to conclude the negotiations on Brexit. Then Brexit is going to happen for real,” he said.

The Taoiseach rejected a suggestion that Fine Gael were using Brexit to ‘handcuff’ Fianna Fáil into a two-year extension. 

“It  just makes sense to me that if you have an arrangement and that arrangement is due to expire within a few months that it makes sense to renew that and remove the uncertainty that exists around the date of an election so that both the Government and the Oireachtas can focus on the issues that are actually important to people,” he said.

Mr Varadkar referenced the housing and health crisis, as well as “external threats” to the economy as the areas the Government should be focused on.

They should not, he said, be focused on preparing for an election.

“An  election at an agreed date in 2020 would be in the interests of the country- not taking advantage of opinion polls,” he said.

The two leaders met in recent days following weeks of speculation and tit-for-tat exchanges in public over their course of action as the confidence and supply deal nears. The deal is due to expire at the end of the year and the parties differ on when a new deal, should there be one, should be negotiated.

Mr Martin has accused the Taoiseach of trying to manufacture an election by talking up instability, which Mr Varadkar has roundly rejected.

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