Taoiseach declines to rule out November election

Kenny and Burton discuss election timing, Tánaiste insistent it be held in Spring

Tánaiste Joan Burton said she was 'not a quitter' and insisted the government would continue to its full term.

 

Taoiseach Enda Kenny again on Thursday declined to shut down growing speculation that he will opt to hold the general election in November.

Speaking in Dublin on Thursday, after The Irish Times reported Mr Kenny was leaning strongly towards a November date, the Taoiseach said there appeared to be an obsession among the media about the timing of the election.

Asked if he had given Tánaiste Joan Burton assurances that the election would be held next year – which is her preference – Mr Kenny replied: “I’ve made my comments about that. Now, thank you very much.”

Earlier, the Tánaiste said she was confident the election would take place next year, saying the Coalition needed to see out its full term as the Government still had work to complete.

The Taoiseach and Tánaiste discussed the timing of the general election this morning, with Ms Burton insistent the election should be held in 2016.

Sources this morning said Ms Burton had reacted badly to reports of a November election and remained strongly opposed to an election before Christmas.

Speaking this afternoon at the launch of the ‘Ireland 2016’ centenary programmes, Ms Burton said she wanted to see the Government complete its five-year term.

Ms Burton said the banking inquiry had to be allowed complete its work and that measures contained in the budget, including measures to tackle the housing crisis, must be passed before the country goes to the polls.

“I not aware that anybody has said, who is a decision-maker in this, that a November election is going to be called,” she said, responding to The Irish Times report.

She said the Government had “lots of work to do and we intend to actually stay the course. I’ve never been a quitter and I want to stay the course and see the work we have started, really important work, that we actually finish it.”

Minister for the Environment and Labour deputy leader Alan Kelly said he believed the Taoiseach would choose an election date for early 2016.

“He has always kept his word on everything and I expect that to be the case here as well. It is at the Taoiseach’s discretion but he has always indicated it would be early 2016 and I have no reason to believe it will be in anyway different.”

A meeting of the parliamentary Labour party last night heard a “unanimous” preference from TDs and Senators for an election next spring.

Fine Gael sources claimed on Thursday that Ms Burton “is terrified” of a November election but that other Labour Ministers are more open to the idea.

The Cabinet met on Thursday morning to discuss the Budget, which will be announced next Tuesday.

One of the reasons the issue of a November election is back on the agenda is that Mr Kenny is will tonight unveil a key element of Fine Gael’s manifesto by pledging that no one will receive more in welfare payments than they could earn at work.

Mr Kenny’s decision to announce the “working family payment” plan at the Dublin Chamber of Commerce annual dinner will further fuel speculation he intends to call a general election shortly after the budget.

It means a November election is very much on the cards but the precise date will depend on the timetable for getting the Finance Bill and the Social Welfare Bill through the Dáil.

Officials in the Department of Finance have already been told to draw up a slimmed down version of the Finance Bill giving effect to the budget changes that can be passed quickly through the Dáil.

In his speech tonight Mr Kenny will pledge to change the welfare system to ensure people at work can be sure of being better off than if they were on welfare.

A similar commitment was included in the British Conservative Party’s successful general election platform earlier this year.

A new “working family payment” will be aimed in particular at families with one or more children.

Mr Kenny will outline how it will be targeted at low-income families by supplementing, on a graduated basis, the income of a household while at the same time incentivising more hours and full-time work.

A key feature of the payment will be to better align it with existing jobseeker supports aimed at creating a seamless transition from welfare to work for families while removing many of the welfare traps facing families with existing schemes such as the family income supplement.

The Taoiseach will outline why, in his opinion, such a scheme is needed.