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Tuesday 6 December 2016

Kenny poised to call election as an extra €1bn pours into coffers

Taoiseach Enda Kenny and Finance Minister Michael Noonan
Taoiseach Enda Kenny and Finance Minister Michael Noonan
Kelly ‘did not influence date’

Taiseach Enda Kenny is poised to announce the date of the General Election as new figures show an extra €1bn poured into the State coffers in January.

A surge in consumer and car sales, combined with an increase in income tax receipts, will provide the Coalition with the ideal platform to call Election 2016.

Mr Kenny is now expected to go to Aras an Uachtarain tomorrow at the latest to seek permission from President Michael D Higgins to formally dissolve the Dail.

Afterwards, he will return to Government Buildings to host a joint press conference with Tanaiste Joan Burton to mark the calling of the election.

As a result, the current Dail will not sit again. Mr Kenny is expected to hold the election on Friday, February 26 - despite giving serious consideration to the previous day.

But the decision has nothing whatsoever to do with remarks by Alan Kelly and other Labour figures that holding the election on a Thursday would exclude students.

"Kelly is miles off if he thinks the Taoiseach would allow himself to be influenced over the election date," said a senior Fine Gael source.

Government figures last night said today's Exchequer figures will reveal a surplus of over €1bn.

The figures show that the country's economic growth is displaying no sign of abating - despite concerns surrounding the Chinese economy.

Fund

Nonetheless, Finance Minister Michael Noonan is expected on Thursday to announce Fine Gael's long-term economic plan, which will include the proposal to set up a €2.5bn "rainy day fund".

In a clear indication that the economy recovery is now on a firm footing, over €2bn was collected in VAT in January - an increase of over €100m on the same period last year.

This is being attributed to very strong January sales.

While corporation tax receipts are down marginally, there has also been a surge in income tax and excise duties.

Receipts for income tax were at over €1.6bn in January - up €100m on 2015.

And the proceeds of excise duties, generated from the sales of the likes of alcohol, tobacco and petrol, have also surged.

"The figures show that car sales and consumer spending are going up - and it's clear that people went out and socialised over Christmas, which is also positive," said a Government source.

When Mr Kenny calls the election - he will pave the way for a short campaign of around 24 days.

The final exchange of the 31st Dail was last Thursday evening between Health Minister Leo Varadkar and Fianna Fail TD Robert Troy on the availability of specialist medicine in hospitals.

Mr Kenny will chair the Cabinet meeting at 10am and travel to the Aras either today or tomorrow.

He will get the Cabinet to agree the date of the General Election. There had been widespread speculation that Mr Kenny would wait until late Tuesday or even into Wednesday before dissolving the Dail.

This was partly due to the fact that the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) is scheduled to meet to grill HSE boss Tony O'Brien over the South East sexual abuse scandal.

However, the decision by the Government last night to set up a Commission of Investigation is seen as having appropriately responded to the issue.

Sense

One Fine Gael cabinet minister last night said everything pointed to an election declaration as early as today and the fixing of polling day for later this month. The senior source said choosing Friday February 26 "made very good sense".

"In practice this Government's work ended just after the last budget day, though there was important detailed work to be dealt with. There is little advantage to be gained from dragging things on any longer - we might as well get on with the election," the senior Fine Gael source said.

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