Taoiseach expected to announce election date on Tuesday

Thursday polling date would prevent many young people from voting, says NYCI

According to the NYCI, holding the general election vote on a Thursday risks reducing student participation. File photograph: Cyril Byrne/The Irish Times

According to the NYCI, holding the general election vote on a Thursday risks reducing student participation. File photograph: Cyril Byrne/The Irish Times

 

There are growing expectations among Government TDs and Senators that Taoiseach Enda Kenny will announce Friday 26th of February as the date of the election.

Mr Kenny is expected to divulge the date of the election to Tánaiste Joan Burton and ministerial colleagues tomorrow morning ahead of the Coalition’s final Cabinet meeting.

It remains uncertain if the Taoiseach will seek the dissolution of the Dáil tomorrow or Wednesday.

His colleagues said today they expect him to make the announcement in the Dáil before driving to Áras an Uachtaráin to make the formal request to President Michael D Higgins.

Tánaiste Joan Burton said she and Mr Kenny would meet on Tuesday morning in advance of the Cabinet meeting.

“As is our normal practice, I’ll be meeting the Taoiseach early tomorrow morning in and around 8.30am. I anticipate that the election . . . will be quite soon.

“But we haven’t actually signed off on a final exact date, but I think people will be taken out of their misery very soon.”

Minister for Agriculture and Defence Simon Coveney has said the Taoiseach has not shared his thinking on the election date with colleagues but that he expected him to disclose it tomorrow.

Sources close to the Government said the decision will definitely be made this week, with a polling date of either Thursday 25th February or Friday 26th February. The latter date is considered the most likely.

Holding the general election on a Thursday would run the risk of excluding many young voters from casting their preference, according to the National Youth Council of Ireland (NYCI).

Polling day

The organisation has urged Government not to hold the upcoming election on a Thursday following speculation that polling day could be moved forward.

With an announcement of a date by the Taoiseach said to be imminent, there has been mounting speculation that some within Fine Gael favour a Thursday election due to the likelihood that tens of thousands of potentially sympathetic voters will be leaving for London on Friday to follow the Ireland rugby team for its game against England that weekend.

Labour deputy leader Alan Kelly has publicly expressed his preference for a Friday vote amid suggestions that the question of a date is causing tension between the coalition partners.

NYCI president Ian Power said: “Excellent work was done in 2015, particularly leading up to the marriage equality referendum - and so far in 2016 - to get thousands of young people registered. A Thursday election would undermine this and prevent many from casting their vote .”

He said: “For the 2011 general election, the youth voter turnout was 62 per cent, up 12 per cent on 2002 levels. If we want to maintain and enhance youth turnout, we need to support it through Friday or weekend elections.

“There are up to 460,000 young people entitled to vote. A Friday vote would facilitate the large numbers that are away from home at college or for training or work, to return to vote.”

The organisation’s deputy director James Doorley added that it would be “disappointing” to see a Thursday vote.

“It would be disappointing if Government set Thursday as the polling day, as the majority of young people surveyed in the past have indicated that weekend polling was very important to encourage their participation,” he said.