Kenny says next election will be held in March 2016

Taoiseach says people can then deliver their judgment on whether Government has delivered

Taoiseach Enda Kenny and the Minister for Finance Michael Noonan at the Fine Gael Parliamentary Party conference, in Killenard, Co Laois today. Photograph: Eric Luke / THE IRISH TIMES

Taoiseach Enda Kenny and the Minister for Finance Michael Noonan at the Fine Gael Parliamentary Party conference, in Killenard, Co Laois today. Photograph: Eric Luke / THE IRISH TIMES

Mon, Sep 16, 2013, 21:41

Taoiseach Enda Kenny has said the Government will run its course and suggested the next election would be in March 2016.

Speaking at a dinner this evening at a Fine Gael strategy meeting in Co Laois, which marks the half-way point in the Coalition’s five-year term, Mr Kenny said: “In March 2016, the people can judge us as to whether or not we have delivered on the mandate given to us .

“Write that down… It’s only 132 weeks away, or whatever it is.”

Earlier, Mr Kenny said the looming budget must be seen to send a signal of stability to the international community as Ireland exits the bailout in December.

Arriving at the “think-in” in Co Laois, Mr Kenny dismissed talk of tension within the Coalition over the budget as “speculation” as the Government was not in yet possession of the facts which would determine its position when finalising the 2014 fiscal plan.

“Obviously the room here is going to be very tight and I can’t confirm what the growth figures will be what the tax figures will be what the evidence from the national accounts to be provided by the CSO will be,” he told reporters this afternoon.

“But they are due in the next short period and on the basis of those pieces of information Government will make its collective decision in the best interest of Ireland and in the best interest of the Irish people.”

He was speaking shortly after Minister for Finance Michael Noonan warned that a “tough” budget was in prospect and cautioned against slacking off on the effort to assert control over the national finances.

“My position is that we run a primary surplus to ensure that we get back into the market and that we get back at low interest rates and then whatever figure it takes to get to that is the adjustment figure,” Mr Noonan said.

“Whether it’s the lesser or the more, they’re all tough -- that much expenditure cuts and tax increases -- is a tough budget.

“But what I can say to people is we’re coming towards the end, and we want to keep with it now - because we’re like a hurling team who is five points ahead in the last quarter. We need to close out the game - now’s no time for slacking.”

With Labour pressing hard to ease the €3.1 billion adjustment target set out in the Troika deal by as much as €600 million, Mr Kenny said the debate was “not about individual parties” when asked if he might grant his partners some concessions in the budget debate.

As for his own position on the matter, Mr Kenny declined to say whether he was minded accept any reduction in the €3.1 billion target .

“We’ve set ourselves a number of objectives and its the responsibility of government to achieve those objectives – and in order to achieve those objectives we have to have the detailed figures available to us,” he said.

“I informed the cabinet last week I will be calling a special Cabinet meeting once those figures are available to us and on the basis of that information the government will then decide the final detail of what the budget will be.”

Although Labour want s to settle the budget target soon after new figures on economic growth are released next Thursday, Mr Kenny made it clear that he wanted to see Exchequer returns for September first.