TAOISEACH LEO VARADKAR is targeting holding a general election in May 2020 after admitting that it "is the right moment" in a speech on Thursday.
He allegedly wrote to Fianna Fáil Leader Mícheál Martin to say that an election would take place next May or June, according to the Irish deputy PM.
Speaking at the Fine Gael's annual away day in Cork, Varadkar said he had always believed that the next election should take place in the summer of 2020.
"I think May 2020 is the right moment. It will allow to us to complete a full parliamentary session in the new year, discharge our Government duties around St Patrick’s Day and the March European Council and have a new Government in place well in advance of the next summer recess," Varadkar told Fine Gael TDs.
"We should also, by then, have secured a Brexit Deal or have guided the country through the worst of No Deal. Though timelines, when it comes to Brexit, are unpredictable."
This, Varadkar insists, would give the government time to focus on the fallout from Brexit as well as time to concentrate on the budget, regional development, housing, health and climate action over the coming months.
It would also allow Varadkar to go the White House for St Patrick’s Day and attend the EU Council meeting in March.
"I believe we can win that election. In fact, I am sure of it even though it may not become apparent until the last week or ten days of the Election Campaign," he stressed to his party colleagues.
Speaking about Brexit, Varadkar said avoiding the return of a hard border on the island is a government priority.
"We must protect peace on the island and the success of the all-island economy. This is why the backstop continues to be a critical component of the Withdrawal Agreement, unless and until an alternative is found.
"And yes, we are open to alternatives as we always have been. But they must be realistic ones, legally binding and workable in practice."
He went on to stress that his government will do all it can to avoid a no-deal Brexit, and stressed that they won't back down on the Irish backstop, saying that a Withdrawal Agreement without a backstop is "no good to us."