The general election will be held in early 2016 rather than in November, a majority of Fine Gael TDs believe.
The Irish Times made contact with 34 Fine Gael TDs yesterday to ascertain their views on when the election would be held.
There were mixed opinions among those contacted, with 16 deputies stating they believed the poll would take place in late February or March, and 10 expressing the view it would take place soon after the budget.
Eight of those canvassed expressed no preference or felt unable to say with any degree of confidence when the election would or should take place.
The main reasons cited by those supporting a later election were the desire for the Government to serve its full term; the completion of the Oireachtas banking inquiry, and the sense that the benefits of the budget would not be reflected in pay packets until the new year.
Those who argued for a November election said it was the time when the budget would have the greatest impact. They also pointed to a possible vacuum occurring around the Christmas period. Another reason was the sense that the Opposition would be better organised in the new year than at present. Also some viewed the pre-Christmas period as a better time to go to the country rather than January and February, when the post- Christmas blues kick in.
Pat Deering (Carlow-Kilkenny) said he would prefer the end of February or early March.
“I do not see any benefit in going in November. We will have more of a benefit from the budget in February.”
Likewise, Clare TD Pat Breen said: "I think February is more likely. We got a mandate for five years. It is a matter for the Taoiseach."
Among those who may favour a later election is Minister for Foreign Affairs Charlie Flanagan.
“I’d like to see a successful conclusion to the Northern talks. Without wishing to add to the speculation I would like to see the Government run its full term,” he said.
But other argued for an earlier election. "It is better for us to go as soon as possible, before Christmas," said Louth TD Fergus O'Dowd.
“The only show in town is the budget. It is the right moment to go.”
Wicklow TD Andrew Doyle similarly said that the focus in November would be on the budget. "People say it is better to leave it to the new year when people will feel the benefit in their pocket. Eaten bread is soon forgotten. And others will have more time to prepare for their [Opposition] campaigns."
John O'Mahony, who recently moved constituency from Mayo to Galway West, also said he would favour a November poll.
Some of the TDs who have argued for an earlier date said the persistent rumours were in one sense forcing the issue and might be a self-fulfilling prophecy.
Among those who expressed no view or who were happy to stand at any time were James Bannon (Longford), Mary Mitchell O'Connor (Dún Laoghaire); Jimmy Deenihan (Kerry); Jerry Buttimer (Cork South Central) and David Stanton (Cork East).
Mr Stanton said he would like to see the banking inquiry complete its work but said he was “conflicted” as the budget did set out a strong choice and message of “this is what we do next year”.