Taoiseach won't rule out election in 2019 despite deal with Fianna Fáil

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar has refused to rule out an election in 2019, saying “circumstances may arise”.

Despite extending the Confidence and Supply Agreement with Fianna Fáil for another year, Mr Varadkar said that there can be no “absolute guarantee”.

He said there are no plans to have a general election even if Brexit is resolved in the coming months.

But pressed on whether he could categorically rule one out, Mr Varadkar said: “I can’t – I wouldn’t be honest if I was giving you an absolute guarantee because circumstances may arise. And you can’t predict some circumstances.”

He cited a series of events that could potentially require the triggering of an election.

“We could lose members from the Government. We’re losing a number of votes at the moment even with Fianna Fáil abstaining, so if I got into a position where we weren’t able to get our legislative programme through because we lose votes or lose members of our own Government or lose members of my own party.

“People might get elected to the European Parliament for example, and that would be a vote gone. Sadly politicians on occasion become sick and die, you know… sorry to be so morbid.”

He said the “fundamental question” for any government is “are you able to govern? Are you able to get your legislative programme through? Are you able to implement your policies to the benefit of the Irish people? So as long as we can do that, we’re in government”.

Mr Varadkar said he is “very conscious” that if there was an election “I mightn’t win it”.

“Campaigns do matter. You could lose the election. Or I could find my party in a coalition with fewer ministers, so you may end up with less power after an election.

“So I’m not going to rush into an election for opportunistic reasons just because the polls look good and I hope after a year and a half in office people believe me when I say that.”

Speaking to reporters at an end-of-year briefing, he said Fianna Fáil’s co-operation in the Dáil has allowed his Government to achieve many of its legislative aims.

Mr Varadkar said that “given the uncertainty around Brexit”, Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil will try to agree a fourth budget under Confidence and Supply.

“There’s always the possibility that we won’t be able to negotiate that budget, but we’ve negotiated three and I’d be confident that we could negotiate four.

“So my plan is to focus on getting the job done – on securing the Withdrawal Agreement, if we can’t, managing a no-deal scenario, facing into European and local elections and getting on with the business of government.”

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