Varadkar rules out early election amid criticism of Fianna Fáil

Early election would not be in national interest due to Brexit, Taoiseach says

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar addresses delegates at the Fine Gael Ardfheis. Photograph: Nick Bradshaw

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar addresses delegates at the Fine Gael Ardfheis. Photograph: Nick Bradshaw

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Taoiseach Leo Varadkar has categorically ruled out the prospect of an early election despite a clear intensifying of political attacks on Fianna Fáil by him and Ministers over the weekend.

The Taoiseach yesterday said an early election would not be in the national interest with so much uncertainty surrounding Britain’s exit from the European Union.

However, he harshly criticised Fianna Fáil for its approach to the review of the confidence-and-supply deal, accusing the main Opposition party of dragging the talks out for as long as possible.

Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin criticised the “juvenile behaviour” of Fine Gael Ministers who had criticised Fianna Fáil for dragging its heels during the review of the deal which has kept the minority Government in power since 2016. 

Pointing to what he referred to as electioneering by Fine Gael, he said: “I am saying to Fine Gael please don’t give us any lectures about responsible politics or the need for stability.”

There was much criticism of Fianna Fáil at the Fine Gael Ardfheis over the weekend by Mr Varadkar as well as Ministers including Simon Coveney, Simon Harris and Regina Doherty. This led to some speculation about Fine Gael perhaps angling for an early election.

In an interview on RTÉ’s This Week, Mr Varadkar said the delay in concluding a new confidence-and-supply deal was creating problems.

“We already see in the Dáil and Seanad important reforming legislation is being held up and the pace of progress is slower than I would like it to be,” he said. “I would like us to agree [with Fianna Fáil] that this Government would continue and we would not have an election until summer of 2020.”

He denied Fine Gael was manufacturing a crisis by making disparaging remarks about Fianna Fáil’s attitude to the talks, and said: “I have no doubt that if both parties wanted to do it we could do it in a weekend.”

Cabinet meeting

Speaking before a Cairde Fianna Fáil dinner on Saturday, Mr Martin referred to reports of a discussion of a possible election at the special Cabinet meeting last week. “That is what Government Ministers were at last Wednesday, which tells its own story about who wants to call a general election and create instability.” 

A Fianna Fáil source close to the confidence-and-supply discussions said the tenor of Fine Gael criticisms of Fianna Fáil over the weekend did not accord with the tone of the talks. “They have accused us of dragging our heels. But the talks have been friendly and cordial and professional. We have insisted on a review, which is was what was agreed three years ago, and the review is ongoing.”

Four-person negotiating teams from the parties have received extensive briefings on housing, health and agriculture as part of the review.

The discussion on another key element, the national broadband scheme, will not begin until an independent report determines if contacts between former minister Denis Naughten and the lead bidder in any way undermined the integrity of the process. The report is expected in the next few days.

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