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Election campaign kicks off, polling day Feb 26

February 3, 2016 • Ireland, News,

Taoiseach Enda Kenny (right) and President Michael D Higgins shake hands after signing an order dissolving the Irish Parliament and starting the 2016 general election campaign at Aras an Uachtarain in Dublin. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Picture date: Wednesday February 3, 2016. The Irish Prime Minister announced on Twitter that a general election will be held on February 26. See PA story IRISH Election. Photo credit should read: Niall Carson/PA Wire

Taoiseach Enda Kenny (right) and President Michael D Higgins shake hands after signing an order dissolving the Irish Parliament and starting the 2016 general election campaign. Pic: Niall Carson/PA

Irish voters resident in Ireland will go to the polls on February 26 and once again, those citizens living and working abroad will not got a say.

Taoiseach Enda Kenny has announced on Twitter that a general election will be held on February 26.

The Taoiseach informed the parliament he was seeking its dissolution but only revealed the date of the poll in a video message posted on the social networking site.

Mr Kenny made the announcement before travelling to President Michael D Higgins’s official residence, Áras an Uachtaráin in Dublin, to formally ask him to dissolve the 31st Dáil.

The new Dáil will sit for the first time on March 10 after what will be one of the shortest general election campaigns in Irish political history.

In his video message, Mr Kenny fired the opening salvo of the three-week campaign by stating Ireland was on the verge of collapse and its international reputation was in tatters when he came to power five years ago.

“Five years on we still have many challenges and the job is not yet finished, but working together we have made real progress,” he said.

“Our public finances are back on track, the economy is growing again – faster than any country in the EU – 135,000 more people are back at work, and there is no more bailout, no more troika and no more dead banks.

“Ireland is now clearly moving in the right direction.”

Mr Kenny’s centre-right Fine Gael party and his junior coalition partners Labour are hoping to be returned to power, with a key message of their campaign being stability during the economic recovery.

Labour leader and Tánaiste (deputy prime minister) Joan Burton said the coalition was a “very united” government that had turned the country around.

“The real test of any government is whether they leave the country in a better place and I will say with the Fine Gael-Labour Government we have definitely done that,” she said.

“We inherited a ruin and we rebuilt it.”

Sinn Fein election posters are erected in Dundalk, Co. Louth, as Enda Kenny has announced on Twitter that a general election will be held on February 26. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Picture date: Wednesday February 3, 2016. See PA story IRISH Election. Photo credit should read: Brian Lawless/PA Wire

Sinn Féin election posters are erected in Dundalk, Co Louth, as the 2016 election campaign kicks off

Fianna Fáil leader Micheal Martin attacked the Taoiseach for not allowing anyone else speak in the Dáil before its dissolution, saying he had hoped to pay tribute to veteran party colleagues not seeking re-election.

“I thought it was it was a shabby end to a shabby government,” he said.

“I presumed I would get that opportunity, but people saw the Taoiseach made a speech and ran out of the house – it just didn’t look well in terms of the national parliament conducting its business.”

Mr Martin accused Fine Gael of regressive policies which he said suited only the wealthiest in Irish society.

“Fine Gael don’t care about people who need housing, people who need proper access to healthcare – they just look after the top 20,” he added, signalling his party’s campaign would focus on homelessness, healthcare, education and crime prevention.

Sinn Féin leader Gerry Adams also criticised the Taoiseach’s closing of parliament as a “pathetic end to a pathetic government”.

“Fine Gael and Labour have presided over some of the most reprehensible policy decisions ever made by a government in this State, and they have brought chaos to the lives of ordinary citizens,” he said.

“They cut child benefit, the back to school allowance, the respite care grant, 1.5 million home help hours, and they abolished the bereavement grant.

“They promised a new health service. Instead, last year, we saw the highest number of patients on trolleys since records began and we have the worst A&E waiting times in Europe.

“The aim of this government, if re-elected this time around, is to privatise healthcare.”

Mr Adams said for the first time since the foundation of the State, there is an opportunity for “real change”.

“The choice is between two visions for Irish society,” he said.

“A Fine Gael led government that will deliver more of the same unfairness and inequality, or a Sinn Fein led government that has a plan to deliver a fair recovery for all citizens, and put stability back into the lives of the average family.”

Unlike countries like Britain, Australia and Italy, Irish citizens resident outside the state are not allowed to vote in general elections.

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