SPECULATION continues to mount in Limerick about when the next general election will be called.
While Taoiseach Enda Kenny has refused to give a precise date - especially in advance of next week’s Budget on Tuesday - a number of Limerick TDs have already mounted their campaigns in case it falls before Christmas.
Fianna Fail deputy Willie O’Dea said if the actions of opposing political TDs are anything to go by “it’ll be sooner rather than later”.
He believes there could be numerous advantages for the Coalition partners to have it before Christmas - and bookmakers Paddy Power are also backing Deputy O’Dea’s theory. The odds-on favourite to be the general election date is November, at 1/3, followed by February at 2/1. The odds of it being held in December are 66/1, and 50/1 in January.
The Taoiseach has indicated the election will not be on November 20, despite a prediction from his former ministerial colleague and broadcaster Ivan Yates.
However, Deputy O’Dea said that doesn’t rule out the possibility of it being held a day earlier, or earlier that week. O’Dea said in his view there’s a 51% chance “they might wait until February”. “The Labour party is trying to hang on until the last gasp, and Fine Gael might be thinking ‘After the election we might need these guys, so we better not alienate them too much’.
“But then you could be taking a risk holding on until after Christmas, if people get a boost in the Budget. Any changes to social welfare won’t kick in until January but people are broke then anyway. Those are some of the factors I’d be taking in, plus you could have an A&E crisis over Christmas,” he told the Leader.
Minister for Noonan said at the weekend that he expects Deputy O’Dea could top the polls, much as he did two elections ago. “It would be remarkable if the Minister for Finance didn’t top the polls,” O’Dea said in response, adding that his electorate shouldn’t be overly confident that he’ll top the polls by a major margin.
Thirty days’ notice has to be given before a general election, and it has to be held before April of next year.
Asked about a date, Minister Noonan said, “it’s either between now and Christmas or it is after Christmas”. He also said he would ideally like to be Minister for Finance for another two years to continue the economic recovery.
“He’s a competent minister,” said O’Dea. “I can’t say that for the rest of his colleagues in the Government. He’s making a big assumption there - namely that he’ll be back in power. I don’t think they’ll be back in power, but if they were he’d be the best qualified man for the job [in finance],” he said.
Asked how Limerick’s Fianna Fail deputies will fare, he said: “Well, we’ll certainly do better than we did in the last election.”
Fine Gael deputy Kieran O’Donnell also stressed that the date is a matter for the Taoiseach to announce in the midst of “huge speculation”.
“There’s only one person that knows and that’s the Taoiseach. Either way, we’re shortly going to have a general election,” he told the Leader.
In relation to the Budget, he said “the year of cuts is over” and “it’s time to give something back to the people after these unprecedented times.”
There have only been two Irish general elections held in the month of November since 1923 - in 1982 when Garret Fitzgerald took office, and in 1992 when Albert Reynolds became Taoiseach.