herald

Thursday 23 January 2020

Election date talks as temperatures rise between FG and FF

Leo Varadkar wants a meeting
Leo Varadkar wants a meeting

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar and Fianna Fail leader Micheal Martin are set for a showdown over the election date amid rising tensions between the two men.

Fine Gael is furious about a letter sent by Mr Martin demanding that a date be set for the dissolution of the Dail.

Rather than reply in writing, Mr Varadkar wants a face-to-face meeting with the opposition leader either this week or immediately after Christmas.

Certainty

Mr Martin said yesterday there is "no point" reconvening the Dail after the festive recess if the Taoiseach does not give certainty on when the general election will be.

However, sources close to the Taoiseach noted he has repeatedly asked Fianna Fail to agree an election date in summer 2020. Mr Martin always declined to engage in such discussions.

"It's a little ironic now for Fianna Fail to be claiming the moral high ground," a Government source said.

Preparations are well under way in both parties for an election, with the vast majority of candidates selected and manifestos largely ready for printing.

On Saturday Mr Varadkar and Finance Minister Paschal Donohoe met directors of elections from every constituency around the country.

Party sources insisted the gathering in the Red Cow Hotel was a bi-annual event and not linked to rising expectation of an imminent election.

However, the Herald understands Mr Varadkar gave a speech on the party's priorities as it moves into election season.

The Dail is due to close for a month-long recess on Wednesday night. Ministers and TDs are wondering whether they will be back at all on January 15.

Relations between the two main parties have been strained after the details of Mr Martin's letter were revealed in yesterday's Sunday Independent.

In it, he called on the Taoiseach to "step in and give some certainty" that would allow an orderly wind down of the Government.

"It is not tenable that the Dail will continue on an indefinite week to week basis so there has to be certainty and clarity brought to the situation," the letter added.

Mr Martin said Fianna Fail would agree to stick with the confidence and supply arrangement for the 34 sitting days until Easter if the Government gives certain commitments.

Tanaiste Simon Coveney argued Mr Martin was slow off the mark.

"Eighteen months ago the Taoiseach wrote to Micheal Martin requesting that they agree a date in May to provide stability," he said.

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