Áras an Uachtaráin
By Evan Short
Ireland is set to go to the polls.
The start of the three week general election campaign is expected to be confirmed by Taoiseach Enda Kenny in the Dáil on Wednesday during Leaders Questions.
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The date being most mentioned for the election is Friday, February 26.
After questions, the taoiseach will go to Aras an Uachtaráin in the Phoenix Park to tell the president that he is dissolving the 31st Dáil.
Mr. Kenny is hoping that the relatively quick campaign – along with the lately more positive economic mood in the country – will see Fine Gael returned to power with their current coalition partners, Labour.
Recent opinion polls, however, show that the two parties will not have the numbers to form a government on their own.
Speaking ahead of Tuesday’s cabinet meeting, Tánaiste Joan Burton said the exchequer figures for the year looked very positive.
Also on Tuesday, new figures from the Central Statistics Office showed that the seasonally adjusted unemployment rate for January was down to 8.6 percent down from 8.8 percent on the previous month.
Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government, Alan Kelly, said the election campaign will make it clear to people that “there is no other choice for stable government and protecting the recovery” than to return the current government.
On her way into Government Buildings on Tuesday Joan Burton was remaining tight-lipped about when the election would be called. All indicators, however, point to a Wednesday call.
“Oh I think everybody is ready for the off. Obviously myself and the taoiseach will have a discussion and we’ll let you know soon thereafter. I’ll have a discussion with the taoiseach and I’ll let you know as soon as possible.”
Unveiling a new party billboard on the eve of the election, Sinn Féin finance spokesperson Pearse Doherty said Fine Gael’s figures don’t add up.
“Fine Gael has been caught out on its election promises to abolish the Universal Social Charge,” he said.
“This was the main plank of its campaign but it simply doesn’t stand up to scrutiny. It has now scrambled its figures to try and make out that there is more fiscal space which allows it to invest in public services while scrapping the USC. This is wrong. Their numbers don’t add up.”
With so many smaller parties and independents in the race in this general election, what are the odds on the up to now unthinkable – a Fine Gael/Fianna Fáil coalition government?
Well, according to bookmakers Paddy Power – 13/8.