Taoiseach Leo Varadkar has confirmed Ireland’s General Election will be held on Saturday 8 February.
The Fine Gael leader travelled to see the country’s president on Tuesday afternoon to ask for the formal dissolution of the Dail parliament.
Earlier, announcing the election outside Government Buildings in Dublin, Varadkar said it was the “right time” for Ireland to vote.
Outlining his rationale, he highlighted that the Brexit withdrawal deal had been agreed and powersharing was restored in the north of Ireland.
He said there was a need for a government to secure a fresh mandate to represent Irish interests in the next phase of Brexit negotiations, focusing on the future relationship between the EU and UK.
Varadkar said it had been a privilege to lead the country as Taoiseach.
“Thank you for that honour and for your trust in me,” he said.
“We have a deal on Brexit and in Northern Ireland.
“Our economy has never been stronger.
“There are more people at work than ever before, incomes are rising, poverty is falling and the public finances are back in order.
“As a nation, we have every reason to be hopeful about the future.
“We’ve modernised our society – marriage equality, women’s rights, real progress in education, welfare and childcare.
“But, it’s not enough. I know it’s not enough. People want their government to do much more. And I want us to do much more.”
Varadkar’s minority Fine Gael-led administration had been facing potential defeat in a vote of no confidence in health minister Simon Harris in the first week of next month.
That prospect will now be averted with the calling of the election.
Varadkar’s personal preference was for a poll in the early summer but changing arithmetic in the Dail meant he could no longer guarantee a majority on key votes.
The dissolution of the 32nd Dail will end the historic confidence and supply deal between the state’s two main parties, Fine Gael and Fianna Fail.
The landmark pact between two parties founded from opposing sides of Ireland’s Civil War of the 1920s was struck in the wake of the inconclusive 2016 general election.
The arrangement, along with the support of several independent TDs, had kept Varadkar’s administration in power ever since.
This will be Varadkar’s first election as Taoiseach having succeeded Enda Kenny as Fine Gael leader in 2017.
The election is widely predicted to hang on two major issues, health and housing, as the state continues to battle its worst ever housing crisis and hospital overcrowding reached record-breaking levels last year.
Fianna Fail leader Micheal Martin highlighted those issues as he responded to the setting of the election date.
“For us and the Irish people in particular this is a vital election in terms of their future because we are facing enormous challenges,” he said outside the parliament in Leinster House.
“Particularly in terms of housing – the inability of people to afford houses, housing prices and housing rents are simply far too high and there is a deep, deep crisis of homelessness right across every level of housing.
“In health, again, we have a very serious crisis in terms of emergency departments and in terms of people waiting far too long for operations and procedures and for out-patient departments.
“Things are simply not working in this country in so many areas.”
We need your help to keep speaking the truth
Every story that you have come to us with; each injustice you have asked us to investigate; every campaign we have fought; each of your unheard voices we amplified; we do this for you. We are making a difference on your behalf.
Our fight is your fight. You’ve supported our collective struggle every time you gave us a like; and every time you shared our work across social media. Now we need you to support us with a monthly donation.
We have published nearly 2,000 articles and over 50 films in 2021. And we want to do this and more in 2022 but we don’t have enough money to go on at this pace. So, if you value our work and want us to continue then please join us and be part of The Canary family.
In return, you get:
* Advert free reading experience
* Quarterly group video call with the Editor-in-Chief
* Behind the scenes monthly e-newsletter
* 20% discount in our shop
Almost all of our spending goes to the people who make The Canary’s content. So your contribution directly supports our writers and enables us to continue to do what we do: speaking truth, powered by you. We have weathered many attempts to shut us down and silence our vital opposition to an increasingly fascist government and right-wing mainstream media.
With your help we can continue:
* Holding political and state power to account
* Advocating for the people the system marginalises
* Being a media outlet that upholds the highest standards
* Campaigning on the issues others won’t
* Putting your lives central to everything we do
We are a drop of truth in an ocean of deceit. But we can’t do this without your support. So please, can you help us continue the fight?