Republic of Ireland news

Leo Varadkar confirms February 8 general election

Photo taken from the Twitter feed of Councillor Paul Donnelly of staff erecting posters of Taioseach Leo Varadkar around his constituency, Dublin West, before the Dáil had been dissolved or an election had officially been called  

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar has confirmed the Republic's general election will take place on Saturday February 8. 

Making an announcement outside Government Buildings, Mr Varadkar said: "I have always said the election should happen at the best time for the country - now is that time."

Outlining his rationale, he said a deal on Brexit had been achieved and the UK would exit the EU in an "orderly" fashion.

"There will be no hard border, citizens' rights have been protected and the Common Travel Area will remain in place," he said.

He said an agreement to get powersharing back up and running in the north has also been sealed.

Mr Varadkar said he had decided to hold an election on a Saturday for the first time in the Republic to avoiding inconveniencing families by closing schools on a weekday.

"I also want to make it easier for students and those working away from home to cast their votes," he said.

The taoiseach thanked the independent TDs who had joined Fine Gael in government since 2016.

He added: "Now I seek a fresh mandate so we can continue to build a better future. A future we can all look forward to.

"We have the team. We have the track record. We have the plans."

Mr Varadkar stressed that Brexit "is not done yet".

"In fact, it's only half-time," he added.

"The next step is to negotiate a free trade agreement between the EU, including Ireland, and the United Kingdom, that protects our jobs, our businesses, our rural communities and our economy.

"The capacity to do everything else that needs to be done - health, housing, climate action, tax reform - depends on achieving this outcome. And, it has to be done by the end of the year.

"There exists now a window of opportunity to hold a general election and to have a new Government in place before the next European Council meeting in March with a strong mandate to focus on these negotiations into the summer and autumn."

Mr Varadkar said it had been a privilege to lead the country as taoiseach.

"Thank you for that honour and for your trust in me," he said.

"We have a deal on Brexit and in Northern Ireland. Our economy has never been stronger. There are more people at work than ever before, incomes are rising, poverty is falling and the public finances are back in order. As a nation, we have every reason to be hopeful about the future.

"We've modernised our society - marriage equality, women's rights, real progress in education, welfare and childcare.

"But, it's not enough. I know it's not enough. People want their government to do much more. And I want us to do much more."

Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin says the 2020 election will be "vital" for the Irish people.

"Particularly in terms of housing, inability of people to afford houses, rising housing prices, rising rents," he said.

"In health we have a serious crisis of people waiting far too long for procedures.

"Things are simply not working in this country in so many areas, and these problems need to be addressed far faster and there needs to be greater delivery on these issues than we have experienced."

Mr Martin went on to say he has "no problem" with the chosen election date of February 8, which is a Saturday.

"We have no issue with the 8th but we want the public to have sufficient time to examine the policies and proposals, and a longer campaign would've given greater opportunity for the public to hold the government to account, but the date has been set and as far as we're concerned, we'll concentrate on the issues," Mr Martin said.

Mr Martin said the conversation with the taoiseach about the end of the confidence and supply agreement was "about one second".

"He was just informing me he was going to (Phoenix Park) this afternoon - I have to say, I had an idea he was," Mr Martin added.

"At the end of the day, the indecision has come to an end."

The key issue for us is we need a change of government," Mr Martin added.

"We need a new government - Fine Gael has failed, they have failed in housing, health, cost of living, The National Children's Hospital for example, the extraordinary way that ballooned out in expectations of cost, and the National Broadband plan.

"It illustrates lack of control, lack of hands-on management from Fine Gael ministers and we've picked up on the doorsteps that people are angry with the situation, young people in particular who can't aspire to home ownership.

"People are finding it very difficult to buy a house.

"They haven't delivered and haven't got the capacity to deliver, that is why we need a change."

Mr Varadkar acknowledged that many people had not felt an economic recovery in their pockets.

"We have a plan for fairer taxes - for future jobs and for rural Ireland - to put that right," he said.

The taoiseach accepted there was frustration at the pace of efforts to tackle problems in housing and health.

"We share that frustration and I look forward to sharing our plans to build on what has been done, with a particular focus on home ownership and universal healthcare," he added.

The Fine Gael leader said the Republic was making "real headway" on climate action.

"We're no longer a laggard but we are still far from being a leader. We have much to do," he said.

He said he knew many families struggled with the cost of living, "so we have plans to ease the burden and help families who we believe should be at the centre of our society."


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