13127764 CIARA BERESFORD
The Taoiseach has confirmed he will seek to have the Dáil dissolved tomorrow and will then announce the date for the general election.
The House sat as normal today to hear statements on the proposed Commission of Investigation into a foster home in the southeast. Enda Kenny confirmed his plan while speaking on Midwest Radio, although he did not confirm whether the election would take place on Friday 26 February, as is widely expected. Some ministers had predicted that Mr Kenny would announce his intention at this morning's Cabinet meeting and go to the country thereafter.
However, the Taoiseach decided to allow the Dáil another sitting day, in part to allow for an orderly dissolution. Fine Gael ministers met for two hours last night to sign off on their party manifesto. It is understood it will highlight the party's pledge to abolish the Universal Social Charge and to maintain the economic recovery. The Taoiseach has said he wants a focused three-week election campaign to push home that message.
Martin accuses Kenny of not answering questions
Speaking in the Dáil this afternoon, Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin accused Mr Kenny of answering fewer questions in the House than any previous taoiseach. Mr Martin was speaking as Mr Kenny answered questions in relations to the terrorist attacks in Paris last November and also about the ongoing refugee crisis. Mr Martin said these questions had been posed by the Opposition more than two months ago. He said that among other measures Mr Kenny had halved the number of sessions in the Dáil and was answering fewer questions. Mr Martin said that on the final sitting of the current Dáil, this was a 'fitting testament' to the approach taken by the Government towards the House.
Speaking ahead of her meeting with the Taoiseach this morning, Tánaiste Joan Burton said the first Exchequer figures for the year looked very positive and showed people were going back to work - adding stability would be a priority in the years ahead. She said she was looking forward to the election.
Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform Brendan Howlin said the country is ready for the election. He said people have choices to make about the next five years and the Government would be stressing the "stability we've had for the last five years".
Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government Alan Kelly said the election will focus people's minds on the choices they have and that once that happens it will be clear "there is no other choice for stable government and protecting the recovery" but to re-elect the current administration. Mr Kelly said he was looking forward to the election and Labour was in a good position and highly organised ahead of the campaign.
Day of the week does not effect turnout
Meanwhile, a senior researcher on the study of electoral systems has said the day of the week or longer voting hours does not matter to voter turnout at all. Dr Stephen Quinlan, of the Comparative Study of Electoral Systems Project at the Leibniz Institute for the Social Sciences in Germany, said there was very little difference between the turnout for 1992 (Wed - 68%), 2002 (Friday - 63%) and 2007 (Thurs 67%) elections although they were held on different days.
Speaking on RTÉ's Morning Ireland, Mr Quinlan said there also no evidence to suggest that longer polling hours make a difference. He said Ireland is one of the countries in the world with the longest polling hours but when compared to New Zealand and Norway, which have shorter polling hours, the turnout is very much the same. He said the factors that do make a difference are age, education and interest.
Polling took place on Friday, 25 February for the 2011 general election. The turnout was 69.1%.
The Labour Party has pledged to provide a job for everyone who wants one by 2018.
That is despite the Taoiseach saying before the New Year that 2020 was a more realistic target.
Joan Burton also says she wants to create 50,000 apprenticeships and to increase the minimum wage again to €11.30 an hour.
Labour has also pledged to provide high-speed broadband to every home, school and business in the country by 2020.