Varadkar indicates he would not call snap election as taoiseach

Minister says general election in UK does not change leadership process in Fine Gael

Fine Gael leadership contender Leo Varadkar has indicated he will not call an early general election if he succeeds Enda Kenny as taoiseach.

 

Fine Gael leadership contender Leo Varadkar has indicated he will not call an early general election if he succeeds Enda Kenny as taoiseach.

Mr Varadkar also said the decision of British prime minister Theresa May to call for an early UK election does not have any impact on the process of electing a new leader of Fine Gael, or any other matter in the Republic.

He did, however, say it makes it even more important that a new executive in Northern Ireland is formed.

The Minister for Social Protection was speaking at the launch of a new advertising campaign to help clamp down on welfare fraud. He was asked if Mr Kenny should stay on as leader if there is political turbulence because of the UK election and Brexit.

Mr Varadkar said the timing of Mr Kenny’s departure is a matter for the Taoiseach himself. Mr Kenny has said he will deal with the issue of his leadership after the April 29th summit of the European Council, which will adopt the EU’s negotiating stance on Brexit.

He said any delay to the Brexit process would be a “relatively short one” and said the outcome of the French election would have “as much if not a greater bearing” as the British election, which is expected to take place on June 8th.

When asked if a new taoiseach could also seek his or her own mandate as Mrs May has done, Mr Varadkar indicated he would not do so.

“The circumstances in Britain are very particular. The opposition in Britain is in total disarray and the Conservatives are 20 points ahead in the polls,” said Mr Varadkar.

“I’m sure, or I hope at least, the new leader of Fine Gael will give Fine Gael a bounce. I don’t think we’ll be 20 points ahead in the polls and obviously we are in a very different situation as well in that we have entered into a partnership with Independents.

“I think it would be wrong for a new leader of Fine Gael to pull the rug out from people who we have made a partnership with. So I wouldn’t anticipate an early general election in Ireland.”

He also said that the parties in Northern Ireland should focus on forming an Executive in Stormont before they campaign in the Westminster election.

“I’m not sure if it has any impact on issues here in the Republic of Ireland,” he said. “It will impact on the efforts to put together an executive in Northern Ireland and I think it’s now important that the parties in the North redouble their efforts to form an administration before they go out campaigning in the Westminster elections.”

He also said he would be “happy” to engage in a television debate as part of the upcoming Fine Gael leadership contest.