Irish election: Varadkar calls general election and admits success depends on BREXIT DEAL
The Prime Minister is visiting President Michael D Higgins at his residence at Aras an Uachtarain in Dublin, formally marking the start of an election campaign. It is understood Mr Varadkar confirmed this date for the general election to Cabinet colleagues at a meeting in Government Buildings in Dublin this morning. Speaking outside Government Buildings, Mr Varadkar said: “I always said that the election should happen at the best time for the country.
“Now is that time.”
Mr Varadkar added: ”We have a plan for fairer taxes – for future jobs and for rural Ireland – to put that right.
The Taoiseach accepted there the frustration amongst the country’s people over how long it is taking to tackle problems with housing and health.
He added: “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.”
Mr Varadkar also warned “Brexit is not done yet – in fact it’s only half time”.
He added: “The next step is to negotiate a free trade agreement that protects our jobs, our businesses, our rural communities.
“The capacity to do everything else that needs to be done – health, housing, climate action, tax reform – depends on achieving this outcome.”
Mr Varadkar had already under huge pressure, with his Fine Gael-led Government facing a potential damaging defeat in a vote of no confidence against Health Minister Simon Harris at the start of next month.
But the calling of the election will now see that prospect averted.
Dissolving the 32nd Dail will also end the confidence and supply deal between Fine Gael and Fianna Fail.
The pact was struck following the inconclusive general election in 2016.
It is an arrangement which has kept Mr Varadkar’s Government in power since, while also having the support of several independent TDs.
But there are now concerns thousands of Irish people will not be registered to vote in the election.
This is because a new register for this year, which is only in draft status, will not become valid until February 15.
This will be Mr Varadkar’s first election as Taoiseach since replacing Enda Kenny as Fine Gael leader in 2017.
The Irish election is likely to hang on health and housing, with the country buckling under its worst ever housing crisis, while overcrowding in hospitals reached reached record-breaking levels last year.
Fianna Fail leader Micheal Martin highlighted both of these issues when reacting to the calling of the election.
He said outside the Parliament in Leinster House: “For us and the Irish people in particular this is a vital election in terms of their future because we are facing enormous challenges.
“Particularly in terms of housing – the inability of people to afford houses, housing prices and housing rents are simply far too high and there is a deep, deep crisis of homelessness right across every level of housing.
“In health, again, we have a very serious crisis in terms of emergency departments and in terms of people waiting far too long for operations and procedures and for out-patient departments.
“Things are simply not working in this country in so many areas.”
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