Even a free-trade agreement would result in the Irish economy being 3.2-3.9 per cent smaller. Photograph: Bryan O’Brien

Best-case scenario will still hurt Irish commerce with UK, Cabinet to be told

Sinn Féin leader Mary Lou McDonald at the launch of the party’s general election manifesto in Dublin.  Photograph:  Niall Carson/PA Wire

Party leader Mary Lou McDonald describes manifesto as ‘uplifting and fair’

Sinn Féin President Mary Lou McDonald  said the party would not be in government unless that government undertook to prepare for a united Ireland. Photograph: Gareth Chaney/Collins

Businesses, banks and better-off to pay for public spending bill

From left to right: Fine Gael leader Taoiseach Leo Varadkar, Sinn Fein leader Mary Lou McDonald, Solidarity People Before Profit’s Richard Boyd Barrett, Social Democrats joint leader Roisin Shortall, Green Party leader Eamon Ryan, Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin and Labour Party leader Brendan Howlin on stage before Monday night’s debate. Photograph: Niall Carson/Pool/Getty

Spiky exchanges proceed familiar positions on housing, crime, tax and more

Sinn Féin leader Mary Lou McDonald. Photograph: Gareth Chaney/Collins.

Party leader has insisted during election campaign that she does not ‘take instruction from anyone’

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar canvassing in Dundrum with party colleagues Josepha Madigan and Neale Richmond.  Photograph: Nick Bradshaw/The Irish Times.

Inside Politics: If there’s going to be a decisive move, it will probably come this week

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar during a rally in Drogheda, Co Louth, to voice opposition to drug-related violence in the town on Saturday. Varadkar has again ruled out talking to Sinn Féin about a coalition government. Photograph: Caroline Quinn/PA Wire

Growing nervousness in Fine Gael as party trails Fianna Fáil in opinion polls

Frances Fitzgerald and Taoiseach Leo Varadkar out canvassing in Dundrum with Fine Gael colleague Josepha Madigan. Many in the party accept they have had a difficult first half of the campaign. Photograph: Nick Bradshaw

Across the party they accept that messages have fallen flat. So where next for the campaign?

 Michelle O’Neill and Mary Lou McDonald at Sinn Féin’s general election candidate launch in Dublin. Photograph: Niall Carson/PA Wire

Mary Lou McDonald has been beating the unity drum since she became leader

Sinn Féin leader Mary Lou McDonald speaks at Sinn Féin’s general election candidate launch in the Mansion House, Dublin, earlier this week. Photograph: Gareth Chaney/Collins

Cash-for-ash claim cited as evidence SF chief must listen to views of former IRA figures

Green Party leader Eamon Ryan. “The Greens are in the hunt for 10 seats or so, and could well do better than that if a wave comes their way (possible but not yet probable).” Photograph: Nick Bradshaw

Centre-left parties may never get a better chance to implement their policies

 Taoiseach Leo Varadkar buys sunflowers from flower seller Gertie Humphrey on Dublin’s Grafton Street on Friday. Photograph: Damien Eagers

Coveney criticised for saying Martin 'not the person' to handle Brexit negotiations

Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade Simon Coveney (rear) and Taoiseach Leo Varadkar  at Fine Gael’s election manifesto launch in Dublin on Friday afternoon. Photograph: Gareth Chaney/Collins Photos

Varadkar warns that voters will pay more tax unless his party is in government

Striking the right note: Taoiseach Leo Varadkar  local candidate Emer Currie (both left) with members of a ukelele class  at Castleknock Community College, Dublin on Thursday. Photograph: Gareth Chaney/Collins

Promises include health and childcare spending, and raising the tax threshold

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar (right) raised the question of a grand coalition with Fianna Fáil during Wednesday night’s Virgin Media leaders’ debate with Micheál Martin.

Taoiseach’s ploy might not win Fine Gael a lot of votes, but it could cost Fianna Fáil some

Taoiseach Leo Varakar (L) and Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin: Neither Fianna Fáil not Fine Gael responded to queries seeking the costs of their pension promises

Fears of auction election grow as all parties make largely uncosted pledges

 Fianna Fáil finance spokesman Michael McGrath: ‘We’re not getting involved in an auction with Fine Gael on income tax.’ Photograph: Fianna Fáil handout/PA Wire

Party commits to reducing USC and raising threshold for high rate of tax in €1.3bn package

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar – at the mart in Fermoy, Co Cork – is up against it. Photograph: Douglas O’Connor

Inside Politics: Latest Irish Times poll finds 75 per cent of voters are in favour of change of government

A lot of Fine Gaelers have placed their faith in a repeat of the 2007 election, when a late swing re-elected for a third term an unloved, but grudgingly respected Fianna Fáil government led by Bertie Ahern. File photograph: Bryan O’Brien

Polls show electorate wants change, so the party needs to prove it can do better

When respondents were asked their preference for taoiseach, there is little between Leo Varadkar (24%), Micheál Martin (23%) and Mary Lou McDonald (20%).

With over two weeks to go, survey shows 75% of electorate favour some or radical change

Two concerns far outweigh influence of economy, climate change and Brexit for electorate

 Farmers protest: Kevin Smith from Co Cavan outside Government Buildings last week. Have the farmers abandoned Fine Gael for Fianna Fáil?  Photograph Nick Bradshaw

Farmers, Independents, the grey vote and more

Greens set to make gains, Labour struggling while Independents on course to lose seats

Fine Gael has been confronted with its own unpopularity and its leader has seen his popularity slump

 Labour general election candidates Cllr Juliette O’Connell (left), Rebecca Moynihan (2nd left) and Annie Hoey (right) with director of elections Senator Ivana Bacik during the launch of the Labour Party’s proposals  to tackle gender inequality in the workplace. Photograph: Gareth Chaney/Collins

Party plans pilot scheme where State employees would mind children in State facilities

“Fianna Fáil’s campaign isn’t just similar to 2016; it’s actually using the same slogan . . . like Fine Gael, it will need more than that if it’s going to win.” Photograph: Nick Bradshaw

Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil so far running versions of their 2016 election campaigns

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar and Minister for Justice Charlie Flanagan  visit Drogheda on Friday, where teenager  Keane Mulready-Woods was murdered and his body dismembered. Photograph: Brian Lawless/PA Wire

Violent crime now central election issue as Varadkar promises more resources

Minister for Finance  Paschal Donohoe: anticipated slowdown in  corporation tax receipts would  cease to turbo-charge public coffers. Photograph: Gareth Chaney

Election 2020: Campaign about to focus on how unallocated €11bn might be used to 2025

An Taoiseach Leo Varadkar (L), Minister for Business, Enterprise, and Innovation Heather Humphreys, and Minister for Finance Paschal Donohoe  at the Fine Gael launch. Photograph: Brian Lawless/PA Wire

Sinn Féin comes under pressure over comments by councillor about Taoiseach

Maureen O’Sullivan TD at the Dáil in 2016. File photograph: Alan Betson/The Irish Times

Fianna Fáil, Social Democrats, Greens due to fight for seat held by Gregory group

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar, Minister for Finance Paschal Donohoe and Minister for Business Heather Humphreys at Fine Gael press conference to launch their economic plan. Photograph  : Brian Lawless/PA Wire

Fine Gael’s tax plan likely to see higher rate threshold rise to €50,000

The scene in Dublin  where a homeless man was injured during a tent clearing operation along the banks of the Grand Canal. Photograph: Gareth Chaney/Collins

Tent containing homeless man was ‘checked verbally’ before being lifted

Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin at the party’s opening press conference of the general election campaign in Dublin on Wednesday. Photograph: Fran Veale/The Irish Times.

Party leader says Fine Gael in power would result in ‘more of the same’ for next five years

 Taoiseach Leo Varadkar leaves Government Buildings to travel to Áras an Uachtaráin to seek a dissolution of the 32nd Dáil on Tuesday. Photograph: Dara Mac Dónaill/The Irish Times

Opposition leaders focus on FG’s record on health and housing as vote is called

Michael Martin (right), leader of Fianna Fáil, speaks to the media in Dublin after Taoiseach Leo Varadkar confirmed Ireland’s next general election will be held on Saturday, February 8th. Photograph: Damien Eagers/PA Wire

Analysis: Smaller parties will seek to elbow into debate with sharp and distinctive messages

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar  at the dissolution of the 32nd Dáil from President Michael D Higgins. Photograph: Tom Honan

Taoiseach says now is the best time for vote as President Higgins dissolves 32nd Dáil

Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin has already come under attack from Fine Gael ahead of a general election. File photograph: Gareth Chaney/Collins

Vote may be the most intense FF-FG contest since Haughey-FitzGerald – but that is not all

A general election which could be announced as early as Tuesday by Taoiseach Leo Varadkar.   Photograph: Douglas O’Connor

Politicians from all parties are already in campaign mode as opponents trade barbs

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar: Like all governments, this one underestimates the extent of its unpopularity among voters. Photograph: Brian Lawless/PA Wire

Holding out until May would give Fine Gael more time to change ‘put them out’ mood

There’s a huge question mark over how effective a campaigner Fine Gael leader Leo Varadkar will be: even those close to him concede that they don’t know. Photograph: Kenzo Tribouillard/AFP via Getty

Economic conditions will play a role, but the campaign itself will decide the electoral outcome

Though Leo Varadkar played Brexit cannily, he spent much of 2019 under domestic pressure. Photograph: Nick Bradshaw

Year in Review: It often felt like the true epicentre of Irish politics was Westminster

In the manner of WikiLeaks and the Pentagon Papers, The Irish Times has obtained copies of Irish political leaders’ letters to Santa. Photograph: iStock/Getty

We publish these letters in the public interest. Any embarrassment to Santa is regretted

Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin: ‘I think that people have to be full-time [in] politics in the sense of pursuing issues.’ Photograph: Alan Betson/The Irish Times

RTÉ revealed Keith Swanick recorded presence in Leinster House while rarely voting

Former Fine Gael TD Dara Murphy did not participate in Dáil votes on more than a third of the sitting and voting days he fobbed in electronically in Leinster House during 2018 and 2019.

‘It remains my intention to establish that I have not broken any rules’ - ex-Fine Gael TD

Verona Murphy votes at Ramsgrange Parish Hall in Wexford during a byelection in late November. File photograph Nick Bradshaw/The Irish Times

Immigration and climate change are among the issues set to define Irish politics

Creches are to receive average funding of €1,500 in the coming days to assist with administrative costs. Photograph: iStock

Zappone denies funding of €1,500 is a bailout to deal with rising premiums

Declan Kelleher has been a pivotal figure in Irish backroom Brexit dealings in Brussels. Photograph: iStock

Long-serving diplomat Declan Kelleher is expected to retire and be replaced by Tom Hanney

Gardaí are generally entitled to a pension of half of final salary plus a lump sum of 150 per cent final salary after 30 years of service. File photograph: Getty

Restructuring initiative will see the abolition of 30 senior posts

The cost of motor insurance claims fell by 2.5 per cent in the last decade but premiums rose by 42 per cent, according to a Central Bank report. Photograph: Alan Betson

Motor insurance rose 42% in last decade but claims fell 2.5%, Central Bank finds

Fianna Fáil’s Lisa Chambers has previously apologised for mistakenly voting for Fianna Fáil TD Niall Collins, who was not in the Dáil chamber. Photograph: Fran Veale for The Irish Times

Dáil committee asked to investigate reports Chambers voted for colleague Timmy Dooley

Dublin footballer  Michael Darragh McAuley with Minister for Finance Paschal Donohue and Minister for Community Development Michael Ring:  “When I came down here, I realised my da was a role model, just by having a job, my brother was a role model by going to college.”  Photograph: Maxwell’s

Social ills have blighted areas of the capital. But inspired efforts bring glimmers of hope

Leo Varadkar  in Brussels on Friday. The Taoiseach said Boris Johnson had a ‘very strong personal mandate. . . It’s up to him to decide how he wants to use it.’ Photograph:  Kenzo Tribouillard/AFP via Getty Images

Taoiseach warns against move towards united Ireland after vote

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar: ‘My preference has always been for an election in the summer of 2020. However, that may not be under the control of me.’  Photograph: Cyril Byrne/The Irish Times

Taoiseach’s election language seen as more ambiguous than before

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar arrives for the second day of the European Council summit in Brussels. Photograph: Stephanie LeCocq/EPA

Taoiseach says focus should now be on reviving powersharing institutions in North

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar, Danish prime minister Mette Frederiksen and  Swedish prime minister Stefan Löfven. The three countries have announced they will be working much more closely in the future on climate change

Subsidies cost exchequer €2.44bn in 2014 and removal would have ‘sizeable impact’

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar and Minister of State for Europe Helen McEntee arriving for the European Council summit in Brussels. Photograph: Julien Warnand/EPA

Taoiseach tells EU summit that Ireland will strongly support European Green Deal

 Taoiseach Leo Varadkar and Minister of State for Europe Helen McEntee  arriving at the European Council summit in Brussels on Thursday. Photograph: Julien Warnand/EPA.

Taoiseach, attending EU summit in Brussels, expects to be up late following British results

The UK will go to the polls in a general election on December 12th. Photograph: Christopher Furlong/Getty Images.

Inside Politics: Poll predicts majority for Boris - but a much smaller one than thought

Senior RTÉ sources say they are not against a move away from the Donnybrook campus, above, but that the economic case did not stack up at present File photograph: Cyril Byrne

Sources say NTMA advisory unit wants the sale option to remain on the table

RTÉ director general Dee Forbes: salaries are a lightning rod for political annoyance at its habit of running deficits.  Photograph: Tom Honan

Big salaries still bone of contention as breathing space bought by €10m handout

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar. ‘If there is to be a political salvation for Varadkar, he will need a new departure, a new project, a new narrative for the Government.’ Photograph: Gareth Chaney/Collins

Battlelines for a forthcoming election are being drawn, and not before time

 Taoiseach Leo Varadkar: “I think we have to be a normal workplace in Leinster House and the kind of regimes that exist around attendance and expenses are not what would be allowed in most workplaces.” Photograph: Gareth Chaney/Collins

Dara Murphy agrees to co-operate with investigation around attendance and expenses

SSE Airtricity League club award winners with FAI Director of Competitions Fran Gavin and  SSE Airtricity sponsorship manager Leanne Shiel at Knightsbrook Hotel in Trim, Co Meath. Photograph: Stephen McCarthy/Sportsfile

Senior source expects financial results presented by organisation to be ‘horrific’

The Dáil Members’ Interests committee can conduct an investigation into  former Fine Gael TD Dara Murphy’s attendance – but he must request the inquiry. File photograph: Brenda Fitzsimons

Ex-TD yet to comment on reports he received €10,000 a month from EPP, plus Dáil salary and expenses

 Fianna Fáil has lodged an official complaint about Dara Murphy with the Dáil Members Interests Committee. File photograph: Brenda Fitzsimons

Ex-Fine Gael TD will receive more than €50,000 gross in severance under Oireachtas scheme

Dara Murphy,  Fine Gael TD for Cork North Central: to resign and take up job in Brussesl. Photograph: Dara Mac Dónaill

Fianna Fáil accuses Taoiseach of error of judgement in backing former junior minister

Minister for Housing Eoghan Murphy: The hours before the debate were characterised by frantic arm-twisting and wheeler-dealing. Photograph: Crispin Rodwell for The Irish Times

Government survives motion, but probably won’t be able to dictate timing of election

Robert Watt, secretary general of the Department of Public Expenditure: ‘We have systems to reward people . . . but people who don’t perform, it’s very difficult.’ Photograph: Jenny Barker

Robert Watt wants to be able to ‘manage out’ underperforming staff and ‘move things on’

Minister for Housing Eoghan Murphy faces a vote of no confidence on Tuesday. File photograph: Tom Honan

Party expects to win but needs support of departing TD Dara Murphy and at least three unaligned deputies

 Taoiseach Leo Varadkar: The Government is  facing a motion of no confidence in Minister for Housing Eoghan Murphy in the Dáil on Tuesday.  Photograph: Dara Mac Dónaill

Pressure within Fine Gael for Varadkar to remove Verona Murphy from Wexford general election ticket

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar and Minister for Justice Charlie Flanagan at the Garda College, Templemore. Fine Gael’s leadership will be left with much to consider after the byelections. Photograph: Colin Keegan/Collins Dublin

Fianna Fáil looks in good shape even in voters’ apathy is most notable takeaway

More than one in every two regular voters stayed at home. Photograph: Alan Betson/The Irish Times

Analysis: Lack of interest among voters apparent as Fianna Fáil, Greens enjoy day in the sun

Newly elected Fianna Fál TD  Padraig O’Sullivan and party leader Micheal Martin  at the Cork North Central byelection count centre.Photograph: Provison

Fianna Fáil on course to win seats in Cork and Wexford, Greens likely to win in Fingal

 Taoiseach Leo Varadkar speaks at a  #WorkEqual conference in Dublin. Photograph: Dara Mac Dónaill/The Irish Times

Ex-taoiseach never forgot public service shortcomings when trumpeting achievements

Dara Murphy has drawn his full TD’s salary of €94,500 plus parliamentary standard allowances totalling €51,600 per annum since taking up his job with the EPP in Brussels in September 2017. Photograph: Brenda Fitzsimons

Party wants to know if absent TD breached regulations by claiming allowances

Detail of a ballot paper for the  Wexford constituency in today’s byelection. Photograph: Nick Bradshaw

Lack of voter engagement and low turnout means outcomes are highly unpredictable

On average the Oireachtas printers do 2,357 jobs every year. Photograph iStock.

Analysis: Another case of a State body identifying errors, but not identifying blame

Staff are understood to be seeking additional payment to be trained and use the new printer. Photograph: RTÉ News

‘This has been a total pig’s ear’: Members of PAC label situation as ‘absolute mess’

Fianna Fáil is anticipating a good day in the byelections, with perhaps two wins in Wexford and Cork. Stock photograph: Dara Mac Donaill

Inside Politics: Fine Gael seems to have zeroed in on Dublin Mid-West as its best hope

 Minister for Housing  Eoghan Murphy will need Independent support to survive the no-confidence motion. Photograph:  Gareth Chaney/Collins

Government will need to secure support from Independent TDs to ensure it wins vote

Entrepreneur Pádraig Ó Céidigh was appointed to the Senate by Enda Kenny in 2016 at the suggestion of the Fianna Fáil leader Michéal Martin.

Government has declined to release price, saying contracts have not been signed

 Gardaí behind a barricade at Stephens Green, Dublin during a protest by farmers over farm produce prices on Wednesday. Photograph: Collins

A number of roads in Dublin are blocked for a second day as part of a protest over prices

PAC chair  Seán Fleming  said the cost of the printer had been borne by two bodies, the Oireachtas and the OPW.  Photograph: Gareth Chaney Collins

PAC to examine spending on device and €230,000 works to fit it into building

Pádraig Ó Céidigh,  owner of Connemara Airport and Aer Arann. Photograph: Cyril Byrne/The Irish Times

Deal with owner, entrepreneur and senator Pádraig Ó Céidigh, agreed in principle

Taoiseach Leo  Varadkar pointed out that there were already several proposals for citizens’ assemblies. Photograph: Collins

Taoiseach and Tánaiste Simon Coveney later met Sinn Féin deputy leader Michelle O’Neill

By the time the mistake was discovered and rectified, a loss had materialised for the National Treasury Management Agency.

Public Accounts Committee to flag incident at NTMA in report and urge stricter controls

 Minister for Finance Paschal Donohoe: told Noel Grealish, he was ‘disappointed with the apparent ethnic basis of your statements’. Photograph: Gareth Chaney/Collins

Minister explains State agencies’ role in monitoring cash transfers in letter to Independent TD

Fine Gael election candidate Verona Murphy (C) canvassing in New Ross, Co Wexford. Photograph: Patrick Browne

If he loses all four, Varadkar will start the new year under serious pressure

Minister for Communications Richard Bruton, Taoiseach Leo Varadkar and businessman David McCourt sign the National Broadband Plan at St Kevin’s National School in Glendalough, Co Wicklow.

Social media posts raise questions of a blurring between Government activity and campaigning

Gordon Sondland, ambassador to the European Union, during his testimony at a House impeachment inquiry hearing in Washington. Photograph: Doug Mills/The New York Times

Inside Politics: Ambassador to EU tells inquiry there was a quid pro quo in relation to US president’s dealings with Ukraine

The State has made a settlement and paid the legal costs of Aoife Bennett, who claimed she developed narcolepsy after receiving the swine flu vaccine. Photograph: Laura Hutton

Government sources say ministers favour no-fault compensation scheme

Leo Varadkar: ‘The case I always make is that we are in favour of migration.’

Taoiseach attempts to close off byelection row sparked by Verona Murphy comments

Minister for Education and Donegal TD Joe McHugh boasted that Fine Gael is spending €128 million in that county to connect 32,000 homes. File photograph: Gareth Chaney/Collins

Ministers have resolved to throw their weight behind the plan despite some private reservations

Verona Murphy: ‘We also have to take into account that possibility that Isis have already manipulated children as young as three or four’. Photograph: Dylan Vaughan

Fine Gael byelection candidate said addiction and bad choices lead people to become homeless

Minister of Communications Richard Bruton, Taoiseach Leo Varadkar and David McCourt of National Broadband Ireland at a school in Glendalough, Co Wicklow. Photograph: Richard Bruton/Twitter

Over 90% of premises will have access to broadband within four years - Bruton

The contract will be signed with National Broadband Ireland, the group led by US businessman David McCourt, above. Photograph: Jason Clarke

Plan could cost as much as €3bn in coming years and will leave network in private hands

Senior civil servants in the Department of Public Expenditure strongly opposed the plan on a value-for-money basis. File image: Michael Smith/Getty

Cabinet to hold early morning meeting, with work on first connections expected to start within weeks

There is  significant frustration among many politicians about RTÉ and the way it operates. Photograph: Niall Carson/PA Wire

Public service broadcasting is necessary for politics and a healthy public life

Fine Gael politician Maria Bailey has been deselected by the party. File photograph: Niall Carson/PA Wire

Party meeting voted to remove TD from general election ticket in Dún Laoghaire

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