Ireland prepares for possible February election

Irish Prime Minister, An Taoiseach Leo Varadkar. EPA-EFE/Henrik Montgomery

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Opposition parties are gearing up for a February general election after Irish Prime Minister Leo Varadkar said yesterday that he had “made a decision” on the date and would clarify matters shortly.

Varadkar said on Sunday he had made a decision on the timing of a general election, with many media outlets and politicians predicting a Feb. 7 poll.

Speaking to national broadcaster RTE, Varadkar said he would meet his cabinet on Tuesday before announcing the date. He would have preferred to go to the country in summer but the parliamentary arithmetic has changed, he added.

A minority government led by Varadkar’s centre-right Fine Gael has ruled since 2016 after an initial three-year cooperation deal with Micheal Martin’s Fianna Fail was extended through to 2020 due to uncertainty created by Brexit talks.

With Britain set to leave the European Union at the end of this month, Varadkar and Martin had both said an election should be held by May.

However a demand by Varadkar for Fianna Fail support on a number of additional issues between now and then has raised the prospect of a snap election as early as next month if the parties cannot agree a short legislative programme.

Varadkar and British Prime Minister Boris Johnson will travel to Stormont this morning following the formation of a new power-sharing administration at the weekend.

Mr Varadkar and Mr Johnson are expected to meet Northern Ireland’s First and Deputy First Ministers, Arlene Foster and Michelle O’Neill, and the new Speaker of the Assembly, Sinn Féin MLA Alex Maskey.

The proposals produced by Northern Ireland Secretary Julian Smith and Tánaiste Simon Coveney provided the framework for Stormont’s five main parties to form a government last Saturday.

Mr Smith and Mr Coveney will also be present at Stormont today.

Read more via RTE


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