Varadkar says it is his ambition for Fine Gael to win 45 seats in next election

FG leader says it is party’s ambition to seek fourth term in Government

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar has said that his ambition for Fine Gael at the next election is to win 45 seats – a result he says can deliver a fourth consecutive term in Government for his party.

Fine Gael won 35 seats at the last general election on 21 per cent of the vote. However, because of population increase, the next Dáil is expected to have as many as 20 extra members.

“We don’t actually know yet what the size of the next Dáil is going to be,” Mr Varadkar told RTÉ’s Today with Claire Byrne show this morning.

“We’ll know that around August. What I’m saying is that our ambition after three terms in Government, which is an extraordinary historic achievement for our party, we will be seeking a fourth term and we can achieve a fourth term in Government.”


He said that he believed that if Fine Gael could “get our vote into the mid-twenties” it should win “roughly 45 seats . . . and then we obviously have to build a Coalition from there”.

The most recent Irish Times/Ipsos opinion poll put support for Fine Gael at 22 per cent. The average rating for Fine Gael in all published polls this year is about 21 per cent.

“But bear in mind that no party at the moment has 45 seats. So, you know, politics is much more fragmented than it used to be. Forty five seats is more than any party at all has at the moment,” he said.

Mr Varadkar denied that the decision of a number of TDs not to run in the next election was a personal slight.

“Oh not at all. Thankfully I had the support of nearly 80 per cent of my parliamentary party when I ran for leader. So inevitably any time anyone retires, there’s a four in five chance that they voted for a leader. That’s just maths. I think what you’re seeing and other parties will have the same experience between elections, a number of TDs will decide not to run again for various different reasons.”

He said that Fine Gael differ from other parties “in the sense that we’ve a lot of TDs who have a lot of long service”. He said that this meant some Fine Gael TDs would inevitably retire, but that this would create opportunities for new candidates.

“You know, most TDs only get elected once or twice and then they lose their seats. Because of our electoral success from the 2007 to 2016 period we have a huge number of TDs who have served four or five, six, seven terms,” Mr Varadkar said.

“They’re 20, 25 years in politics, they’ve been in Government, they’ve been in Opposition, they’ve been ministers, they’ve been backbenchers, some of the ones who go on to do other things. Some of them want to retire. I entirely respect that. What it does do is create opportunities for hard working, ambitious councillors, hard-working, ambitious senators, and potentially even people outside of the party to run for the Dáil and get elected next time.”

Pat Leahy

Pat Leahy

Pat Leahy is Political Editor of The Irish Times

Vivienne Clarke

Vivienne Clarke is a reporter