Bertie Ahern would have called election for June in Simon Harris’s position

Former taoiseach told reporters at Fianna Fáil ardfheis he believed Coalition would run for full term

Former taoiseach Bertie Ahern would have called a general election for mid-June if he was making the decision about an election date, he said.

Arriving at the Fianna Fáil ardfheis where he was mobbed by wellwishers, Mr Ahern said he believed the Government would go its full term.

Speaking to the media he said: “If it was my decision the election would be mid-June when it’s warm, it’s bright until 10.30 at night. But that’s not going to happen.”

The latest date for which the election can be called is March 9th next year.

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“So the last Thursday or Friday in February. Wear your gloves,” he told reporters.

But responding to Mr Ahern’s comments, Minister for Housing Darragh O’Brien said the Tánaiste had been very clear on the election date. “We’ve a lot of work to do in the remaining 11 to 12 months of this Government and we’ll go to seek a renewed mandate early next year.”

Minister for Finance Michael McGrath said “there is a certain attraction in canvassing on a day like today”. But he said that looking at his own portfolio “if we went to the country in June we wouldn’t have the Future Ireland Fund set up and we wouldn’t have the Infrastructural, Climate and Nature Fund set up and I don’t trust anybody else to do it quite frankly”.

He added: “We have another budget to go and we can make a lot of progress in really important areas”.

Mr Ahern also expressed good wishes for Taoiseach Simon Harris’s tenure in office. Asked if he thought Mr Harris at 37 was a bit young to be Taoiseach, he said he became taoiseach at 44. “I was young. Now they actually get younger all the time.”

He said Mr Harris had a lot of experience. “He was in health, which is a hard ministry, for four years. He’s in third-level education. He’s been in finance. He was chairman of Wicklow Council. He might be 37 but he’s still put in a lot of years. So I wish him well. It’s hugely important for the country that he does well so I give him my very best.”

Before his appointment as Taoiseach Mr Harris served as minister for further and higher education, and before his appointment as minister for health he served as minister of state for finance.

Asked what top tip he would give the new Taoiseach, Mr Ahern said “I think it’s take a small number of issues and do the best you can on those issues.

“If you try to take too many issues you get spread too thin. It’s very hard. There’s always the unpredictable. The one thing when you’re Taoiseach you get up in the morning and the day never runs as you think it will.”

A number of former ministers from Mr Ahern’s cabinets were among those in attendance at the ardfheis, including former education ministers Noel Dempsey and Mary Hanafin. Ms Hanafin, currently a Dún Laoghaire Rathdown Councillor, will not be running for re-election. Former minister for defence Frank Fahey and former minister of state Tony Killeen were also at the ardfheis.

Mr Ahern, who spent the morning out canvassing with Dublin local election candidate John Stevens, declined to set a target for the number of councillors Fianna Fáil could win at the election on June 7th.

Asked if Fianna Fáil, which has 279 councillors, could maintain that number Mr Ahern said “Do you know what, I don’t even know what seats we had. There was a time I’d know every detail.”

“All as I know is this is Saturday,” he quipped.

He added that “from what I’ve seen they’re all out working hard and they’re doing their best and they’re trying to deal with the issues. And I think it’s very good reception as well. So it’s a long way to go, six weeks of hard work.”

Mr Ahern also reiterated that he had not yet made up his mind whether to run for the presidency. The presidential election takes place in autumn 2025.

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