Irish Prime Minister Leo Varadkargave a press conference at the government buildings in Dublin on Tuesday January 14th, to announce an early general parliamentary election, seeking to capitalise on a successful Brexit deal and restored power-sharing in Northern Ireland, according to Reuters.
Varadkar on Tuesday will formally request that President Michael DHiggins dissolve parliament prior to the February general election, the Irish Presidential Office stated.
"The election will be held on Saturday February 8th. We have a deal on Brexit and in Northern Ireland," he said and that there was a "window of opportunity" to get a new government before the next European Council meeting in March.
With Britain set to leave the European Union at the end of this month, Varadkar sought to put Brexit at the centre of the campaign as he also acknowledged more had to be done for people to feel the strength of the economy in their pockets.
"The next step is to negotiate a free trade agreement with the EU, including Ireland, and the United Kingdom that protects our jobs, our businesses, our rural communities and our economy," he said.
On Thursday, January 9th, Varadkar’s centre-right Fine Gael Party met the leader of opposition Fianna FailParty which props up his minority administration, in order to discuss the date of the next parliamentary election.
Since 2016, a minority government led by Varadkar’s party has ruled Ireland after an initial three-year cooperation deal with fellow centre-right party Fianna Fail was extended through to 2020 due to uncertainty created by Brexit talks.
Varadkar said that having a new government would allow there to be a full focus on the negotiations. In a video posted on Twitter, the 40-year-old Irish PM highlighted his achievements including his success so far on Brexit, where a hard border between EU member Ireland, and British-ruled Northern Ireland was avoided.
However, Fianna Fail focused on anger among some voters over an overcrowded health service and a dysfunctional housing market where rents have become prohibitively high for many.
Fianna Fail leader Michael Martin said: “It is clearly time for a new government that will really focus on tangible improvements in health, housing and reducing the cost of living.”
Fine Gael and Fianna Fail are closely matched in opinion polls, and some distance ahead of their other rivalsso that whoever edges ahead at the next election will lead another minority government.
February’s election is being called more than a year early and was unlikely to sway economic policy, regardless of the outcome, according to Ratings Agency S&P Global, which handed Ireland back its double-A sovereign debt rating in November.