Varadkar refuses to rule out 2019 general election

Change in circumstances could trigger election next year, says Taoiseach

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Leo Varadkar said while he was not planning an election, that circumstances could change and a contest could come about next year.

 

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar has declined to rule out a general election in 2019 despite a guarantee from the Fianna Fáil leader, Micheál Martin, not to bring down the Government next year because of Brexit.

Mr Varadkar said while he was not planning an election, that circumstances could change and a contest could come about next year.

He was speaking to journalists at Government Buildings before Christmas and was asked by The Irish Times if he would rule out calling an election even if Brexit was settled in the coming months by the British government either ratifying the withdrawal treaty or cancelling the article 50 withdrawal process.

The Taoiseach repeatedly declined to rule out a general election next year.

“I can’t give an absolute guarantee,” he said. “You know, circumstances may arise.”

Mr Varadkar said he had sought Fianna Fáil’s agreement for an agreed date in 2020, but said that the main Opposition party had refused his approaches.

Uncertainty

In the Dáil before Christmas, the Fianna Fáil leader Michéal Martin said that because of the uncertainty caused by Brexit, he would extend the confidence-and-supply agreement by another year to allow for an election early in 2020.

“I’m not planning [an election],” Mr Varadkar said. “You know, what I sought was that we agree an election date in 2020. Fianna Fáil decided not to accept that, so that was an offer that was on the table – an agreed election date in 2020. Fianna Fáil decided not to accept that and proposed an alternative which was that we negotiate one more budget.

“So we could have had that, but we don’t have an agreed election date.”

Abstaining

Mr Varadkar went on to outline a number of examples where the future of the Government would be in doubt.

“We could lose members from the Government; we’re losing a number of votes at the moment even with Fianna Fáil abstaining, so if I got into a position where we weren’t able to get our legislative programme through because we lose votes or lose members of our own Government or lose members of my own party.

“People might get elected to the European Parliament, for example, and that would be a vote gone.

“Sadly politicians on occasion become sick and die, you know, so – the question always is are you able to – sorry to be so morbid, but like the fundamental question when you’re in government is: are you able to govern?”

He said: “So as long as we can do that, we’re in government.”

‘Very conscious’

Mr Varadkar said that he was “very conscious” that he might not win an election.

“So I’m not going to rush into an election for opportunistic reasons just because the polls look good and I hope after 1½ years in office people believe me when I say that. But the key test is: can you actually deliver? Can you get your legislative programme through? Can you get your policies implemented?” he said.

“And so far in co-operation with Fianna Fáil we’ve been able to do that. But there are many reasons why that may change.”