Minister for Finance Michael Noonan has said that a coalition between Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil will not be necessary after the general election.
Speaking to reporters before the start of the Fine Gael ardfheis at Citywest in Dublin, Mr Noonan said: “I have full confidence that the Fianna Fáil option will never arise because the public will re-elect the present Government.”
Asked about potential coalition partners for his party following the election, Mr Noonan said speculating before the vote had even been called was “interesting but it is an idle exercise.
“Our proposition to the electorate is to re-elect the present Government and we’re not thinking outside that space.
“We’re going to make sure during the campaign that the numbers do stack up.”
Asked about reports his party was talking to a number of Independent TDs about supporting Fine Gael in government after the election, Mr Noonan said: “We weren’t but if a number of Independents are associating themselves with Fine Gael we must be going very well.”
He said Fine Gael and Labour had initiated the economic recovery and brought the economy to a point where “we’re now growing at 7 per cent.
“Unemployment is well below the European average at 8.7 per cent and we’ll balance the budget in two years’ time.
“It was a combination of agreed policies between Fine Gael and Labour that has done that.
“What we’re saying to the electorate is re-elect the present Government. We’re not going beyond that in speculation about any other options whatsoever.”
He said he expected an annual growth rate of 3.5 per cent over the next few years.
Earlier on Friday evening, the auditorium where Taoiseach Enda Kenny was to address the Fine Gael ardfheis was evacuated after a bullet cartridge was found on the stage.
Responding to the security alert, Mr Noonan said: “I’ve been coming to Fine Gael ardfheiseanna since the 1970s. There are frequent security threats. We haven’t come across a real one yet.”
When asked by a reporter about his health in the wake of his hospitalisation over Christmas, Mr Noonan said: “How are you feeling yourself? I have some paracetamol if you’re stuck.”