The country will go to the polls on Saturday 8 February to vote in a General Election to elect a new Dáil, An Taoiseach Leo Varadkar has announced.
He informed the cabinet on Tuesday morning that he will ask President Higgins to dissolve the 32nd Dáil in the afternoon.
In his speech announcing the election, he said he has always said that the election should happen at the best time for the country.
“Now is that time,” he said. On Brexit, he highlighted that there is no hard border and the common travel area remains in place.
However, he said Brexit is not done yet and that it’s “only half-time”.
“The next step is to negotiate a free trade agreement between the EU including Ireland and the United Kingdom that protects our jobs, our businesses, our rural communities and our economy.
“The capacity to do everything else that needs to be done – health, housing, climate action, tax reform – depends on achieving this outcome. And, it has to be done by the end of the year.
“There exists now a window of opportunity to hold a General Election and to have a new Government in place before the next European Council meeting in March with a strong mandate to focus on these negotiations into the summer and autumn,” he said.
April and May had been mooted as months to potentially hold the election.
“In deciding not to seek agreement on a date for an election in April or May, I do so knowing that, even if this was possible, we would effectively enter into a three- to four-month election campaign.
“During this time there’s a risk that difficult decisions would be deferred and irresponsible promises made. That would not be in the interests of our country,” Varadkar said.
On Fine Gael’s plan for the future, An Taoisesach said that it has a plan “for fairer taxes – for future jobs and for rural Ireland - to put that right”.
“Many people are frustrated about the pace of progress in housing and health. We share that frustration and I look forward to sharing our plans to build on what has been done, with a particular focus on home ownership and universal healthcare.
“We are beginning to make real headway on climate action and the environment. We’re no longer a laggard, but we are still far from being a leader. We have much to do.
“Many families struggle with the cost of living – so we have plans to ease the burden and help families who we believe should be at the centre of our society,” he said.
Before concluding, An Taoiseach thanked the Independent Alliance and the independent ministers who served in the Government, saying they “have contributed so much to our country by having the courage to join us in Government”.
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