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Saturday 10 December 2016

'I have a date in my head', says Kenny as he confirms he's chosen day of election

Coalition party leaders Enda Kenny and Joan Burton Photo: Collins Dublin, Gareth Chaney
Coalition party leaders Enda Kenny and Joan Burton Photo: Collins Dublin, Gareth Chaney

Taoiseach Enda Kenny has settled on the date of the General Election, saying that it will be revealed in a "very public fashion".

The Fine Gael leader described the election as the "most crucial in many years".

Mr Kenny said voters will choose to support a government that is focused on "making work pay" or else an alternative option that will take the country in a "different direction".

He also confirmed that Fine Gael will cut the top rate of the Universal Social Charge (USC) by at least 1pc in the budget in a move that will save workers up to €500 per year.

Mr Kenny said he has a date in mind for the election, but declined to reveal it when asked.

"I have a date in my head, yes. I'll share that with you and everyone else when I decide to go to Aras an Uachtarain," he told reporters yesterday, adding that the date will be revealed in a "very public fashion".

But he refused to say whether he would announce the date in the Dail chamber.

Fine Gael strategists believe the most likely date for polling is Friday, February 26.

It's anticipated that Mr Kenny will call the election in or around February 2 - paving the way for a campaign of just over three weeks.

However, the same sources stressed that Mr Kenny has not discussed the date of the election, even with his key strategists.

Meanwhile, Tanaiste Joan Burton yesterday launched a fresh attack on Fianna Fail and Sinn Fein, claiming that the two parties are "auditioning to beat each other" in order to lead the opposition.

In an appeal to voters ahead of the General Election, Ms Burton warned against taking a "gamble" by voting for Fianna Fail.

Risk

And she said the country risked being plummeted back into a recession under a Sinn Fein-led government.

"They have no interest in, or intention of, being in government. They are two parties auditioning to beat each other so that they can lead the opposition," Ms Burton said.

"In doing so, they are putting party posturing ahead of the national interest. Nobody can accuse Labour of doing that," she added.

The Labour leader made the comments at an event to mark the publication of the final annual report of the Programme for Government.

Mr Kenny said the Coalition had delivered on or made significant progress on 93pc of the 714 commitments made over the past five years. But he said that many families are still struggling to "make ends meet".

"For some families there is still too much anxiety, too much worry about making ends meet.

"Unemployment, while falling, still remains too high. Our public finances are still not fully repaired. Our public services and infrastructure need more investment," Mr Kenny said.

"But at the same time, because of the way our plan has worked, there is a new optimism," Mr Kenny said.

Both Ms Burton and Mr Kenny also defended the Government following its failure to secure a deal from the EU on the country's bank debt.

Both party leaders all but conceded that any prospect of a debt write-down is now off the table.

Ms Burton said the promissory note deal in 2013 was the basis for the country's economic recovery, despite claims to the contrary made at the time by the Opposition. She was asked whether the Government will continue to pursue a debt deal.

"I would say that in a certain sense the question is redundant because we're now out of the Troika process," she said.

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