Coveney moves to dampen speculation about early election

Coalition going full term would allow benefits of econmic recovery sink in, says Minister

Minister for Agriculture Simon Coveney has moved to dampen speculation about the general election taking place this year, saying the Coalition wants to stay in power and implement its policies. Photograph: Brenda Fitzsimons/The Irish Times.

Minister for Agriculture Simon Coveney has moved to dampen speculation about the general election taking place this year, saying the Coalition wants to stay in power and implement its policies. Photograph: Brenda Fitzsimons/The Irish Times.

 

Minister for Agriculture Simon Coveney has moved to dampen speculation about the general election taking place this year, saying the Coalition wants to stay in power and implement its policies.

Mr Coveney said the election date was a matter for Taoiseach Enda Kenny to decide on but he believed there was nothing to stop the Coalition becoming “more popular” in office.

He said despite growing speculation about a November poll, he believed Mr Kenny’s assertion that the election would be next year.

“No one knows for sure but I think the likely date will be next year...I think it will be late February or early March and personally I am comfortable with that,” he said. “I’m sure [Mr Kenny] will take advice on it but he will make his own decision...he says he wants the Government to run as close to full term as is appropriate and he has consistently said it will be 2016 so I think that will be the likely date.”

Mr Coveney said with the economy growing at more than double the rate of the next fastest in Europe and some 1,400 jobs a week being created, the Government would seek to let that success sink in.

He said the more people see the economy grow, the more confident they will be that the decisions taken by this Government were the right ones to get Ireland back on track.

Consultation

Mr Coveney said he believed Mr Kenny would consult Tánaiste Joan Burton on the election date as they enjoyed a good working relationship but he didn’t believe he should consult too widely on the matter.

He could understand the view held by many in Labour that the Government should push out the election as long as possible to allow the benefits of the economic recovery reach as many people as possible but he also said the Government still had a lot of work to do.

“There are some people who are reading all of this and saying ‘You know as soon as you get close to the 30 per cent in the opinion polls, you are going to go to the country because you are high enough in the polls’. For me, there’s no reason why the Government can’t continue to become more popular.”

Mr Coveney said he would be slow to base anything on Mr Kenny’s last experience of government. In 1997, then taoiseach John Bruton decided to go the country some months early and the Rainbow Coalition lost power and Fianna Fáil came in for some 13 years.

“I think I would be slow to draw any conclusions from past experiences even though on that occasion, Fine Gael actually came back with more seats but Labour fared badly. At any rate, circumstances are very different this time,” he said.

The Minister said for many politicians and journalists it was “a bit like being in the dressing room - everybody wants to go out and play the match”.

“We’ve had a quite a long period without an election - there’s a kind of excitement out there - ‘there’s an election coming, let’s get on with it’,” he said.