Taoiseach set to call election for February of next year
FINE Gael has began preparations for a general election to be held next February after Taoiseach Enda Kenny chose the dates for the party's final Ard Fheis during this Government's term.
In a memo to the Fine Gael national executive, Mr Kenny proposed that the Ard Fheis be held on the weekend of January 22/23, 2016.
The proposal is expected to be approved by the national executive at a meeting this weekend.
Senior Fine Gael strategists are convinced Mr Kenny will call the election either during or shortly after the Ard Fheis, which will take place in Dublin.
"We are now working on the basis that he will call the election around the Ard Fheis period and we will go to the polls towards the end of February," said a senior source.
The news debunks the rumour being fuelled by members of the opposition that Mr Kenny could potentially call a snap election in 2015.
In theory, the Taoiseach and Fine Gael leader could wait as late as midnight on March 8 before calling the election.
This means that voters could potentially go to the polls in the first week in April if the Taoiseach chose to take that approach.
But sources say a date in February now represents the "most likely" option.
"People will have felt the effects of the upcoming budget in their pockets and will have got over the January blues," said one source involved in electoral strategy.
Meanwhile, senior party figures are quietly confident of a securing the seat in the Carlow/Kilkenny by-election in May through its likely candidate John Bryan.
Local polls suggest that Bryan is well-placed to take the seat due to his "high profile" and farming background, according to sources.
European Commissioner and former minister Phil Hogan was present at last night's selection convention in Kilkenny.
The decision to run Mr Bryan has caused tensions within the party, particularly with the family of FG senator Pat O'Neill.
Mr O'Neill had been set on defending Mr Hogan's seat but he pulled out earlier this month after being requested to do so by party headquarters.
Mr O'Neill's son and Kilkenny councillor Pat Jnr, and other party members, believe privately that Mr Bryan was effectively parachuted in.
Fianna Fail sources are aware that failure to land the seat will heap further pressure on party leader Micheal Martin. TDs are deeply concerned that their candidate Bobby Aylward will lose the seat and have vowed to mount a vigorous campaign.
Sinn Fein believes it has a fighting chance through its candidate, sitting councillor Kathleen Funchion.