General election could take place in October as calls grow within Coalition

October 18th or 25th mooted as TDs from main parties seek to capitalise on the outcome of the local and European elections

Taoiseach Simon Harris with Nina Carberry and Maria Walsh at the TF Royal Theatre in Castlebar counting centre for the Midlands North-West constituency in the European elections. Photograph: Conor McKeown/PA Wire

There are growing calls within Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil for a general election in October given the better-than-expected local and European election results for both parties and Sinn Féin’s lacklustre performance.

There is a push within Fine Gael to have the general election between October 18th and October 25th, as TDs seek to capitalise on the outcome of the local and European elections.

Sources in Fianna Fáil also suggested the election should take place before the end of October, pointing out that the clocks will not yet have changed, allowing for brighter evenings for canvassing.

On Friday, former Fine Gael minister for justice Charlie Flanagan predicted there would be an autumn election.


The Laois-Offaly TD said the “mood has lifted” in Fine Gael and the election result “was a clear endorsement of the centre parties”.

He said: “It is clear that both parties [Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil] will be reducing their August holidays ... with a view to an autumn election.”

After a bruising local elections for Sinn Féin, all focus shifted to when the general election will be called. Video: Getty/ PA/ Irish Times

A sitting Fine Gael Minister said the election should happen “sooner rather than later” and said: “Things will move quickly in terms of ensuring we’re the best-prepared party.”

With the local and European elections over, the process of selecting Dáil candidates will ramp up in the coming weeks regardless of whether the election takes place in the autumn or next spring.

The results of the European elections, with four sitting TDs elected as MEPs, mean that byelections will have to take place in Dublin Bay North, Laois-Offaly, Carlow-Kilkenny and Clare unless a general election is called first.

European election results: All Irish MEPs elected as final four seats decided in Midlands-North-WestOpens in new window ]

There is the possibility of a fifth byelection if a sitting TD is nominated to become Ireland’s next European commissioner, with much speculation that Minister for Finance Michael McGrath could be selected for the role.

The Government has a six-month window in which to call byelections from July 16th, when MEPs take up their European Parliament seats. This means Coalition leaders would have until mid-January before they must make a decision on whether to hold the byelections or go to the country.

A Fianna Fáil Minister said “all bets are off” after the budget, which is due to be published in October. “I can’t see the purpose of holding the byelections ... we should have the election before the time changes,” the Minister said, adding that October 25th would be “a good date”.

Byelections would be “costly and nonsensical and annoying”, a Fine Gael source said. “We are clearly within election time and autumn reduces uncertainty.”

However, there was not universal agreement among those who spoke to The Irish Times on holding the general election before the end of the year, with one Fianna Fáil Minister saying: “If you’re elected for five years you should do the five years.”

A different source highlighted the potential pluses to Coalition parties of running for the full term. These include budget measures such as tax cuts or welfare increases kicking in before polling day and more homes being built as the Coalition seeks to show progress in tackling the housing crisis.

Taoiseach Simon Harris, Tánaiste Micheál Martin and Green Party leader Eamon Ryan have all maintained that the intention is for the Government run its full term into next year.

Both Mr Harris and Mr Martin reaffirmed this position in Castlebar as the Midlands-North-West European election count came to a close, with Independents Luke ‘Ming’ Flanagan and Ciarán Mullooly; Fine Gael’s Nina Carberry and Maria Walsh; and Barry Cowen of Fianna Fáil taking the five seats.

Mr Harris said he did not fear byelections, adding that his view “on the timing of the general election hasn’t changed”.

Cormac McQuinn

Cormac McQuinn

Cormac McQuinn is a Political Correspondent at The Irish Times

Jennifer Bray

Jennifer Bray

Jennifer Bray is a Political Correspondent with The Irish Times