Taoiseach rules out early general election amid speculation

Leo Varadkar says next national elections will be the local and European elections next summer

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar has ruled out a general election in advance of the local and European elections next year, pouring cold water on the suggestion that the Coalition could go to the country earlier than anticipated.

In remarks to political reporters made last week, the Fine Gael leader said that the “next national elections that will occur are the local and European elections”.

A general election must be called by spring 2025.

There had been speculation that an election could be called as early as this November, with some suggestions that next spring could also be an option. Both slots would sidestep the local and European elections as a destabilising factor in the run-in to a general election, or in relationships between Fine Gael and its Coalition partners, Fianna Fáil and the Green Party.


“There are no plans for an early general election,” Mr Varadkar said following the final Cabinet meeting before the summer break last week. “We are focusing on the job.

“The next national elections that will occur are the local and European elections, in June of next year.”

The big end of term wrap

Listen | 48:52
The Dáil summer recess has arrived and our political experts Pat Leahy, Jennifer Bray and Cormac McQuinn have convened to look back on the political season:The relative political fortunes of Micheál Martin and Leo Varadkar.Do polls suggest Sinn Féin has hit a ceiling of support? Did the Government get a handle on the migrant accommodation crisis? Or can it claim real progress on broader issue of a lack of housing? How has the huge budget surplus perturbed politics?Plus, Jennifer reveals what the Leinster House gossip is saying about the timing of the next election.

Mr Varadkar, who is generally seen to have underperformed expectations in elections since he became Fine Gael leader and taoiseach in 2017, did not directly answer a question about whether he would be under pressure if the party has a bad day at the local and European elections.

A motion was proposed by a branch of Young Fine Gael calling for the party leader to resign if the party loses more than 10 per cent of seats won in 2019.

“I’m not going to get into that. I’m leading the party into the next election and hoping to form a government afterwards, and we’ll see what happens after that,” he said.

Mr Varadkar said Fine Gael had “very good” local elections last time and that the plan is to hold on to its 250 local authority seats, which he conceded is “going to be tough”.

However, he said: “I think it’s possible and we’re going to work with our councillors to do exactly that.”

He said it would be a “big mistake” to think that the local and European elections could predict the outcome of general elections, pointing to a “very bad day” for Sinn Féin in 2019, followed by a general election which saw them returned as the largest party.

The Taoiseach said he has been speaking with potential candidates in the past couple of weeks. He said some had expressed concerns about safety, abuse on social media, or the impact of political office on family life.

“All these things are real. What I would always say back to them is the positive sides of politics, the opportunities are very real too, they are very great – the chance to represent your community, the chance to represent your country, the chance to move away from giving out about things that frustrate you to actually being able to change them, that can be very rewarding as well.”

Mr Varadkar (44), who once said he wanted to step back from politics by the age of 50, said that was “a long way off” and doing so in the near future was “not something I have given consideration to”.

“I’m enormously privileged to lead this Government, to be somebody who’s been able to hold the office of the Taoiseach twice, and very much focused on the job.”

Jack Horgan-Jones

Jack Horgan-Jones

Jack Horgan-Jones is a Political Correspondent with The Irish Times