General Election date may come down to rugby and students

By Fiachra Ó Cionnaith, Political Reporter

For some, the choices in the now imminent general election come down not to Fine Gael and Labour or the opposition, but to rugby or students.

And now a senior Labour minister has thrown herself into the ruck.

Asked whether she would prefer the upcoming vote to be held on Thursday, February 25, or Friday, February 26, at Labour's pre-election ard fheis this afternoon, Education Minister Jan O'Sullivan said she is clearly in favour of the latter.

The Thursday date is rumoured to be popular among Fine Gael headquarters as thousands of their likely voters will be travelling abroad on Friday due to an upcoming Six Nations match against England at Twickenham, scheduled for Saturday, February 27.

The Friday date is also strongly suggested to be under consideration by Labour for similar party political reasons, as a large proportion of students who traditionally are more likely to vote for Labour than their coalition colleague may otherwise be unable to travel home to vote - potentially costing closely-fought seats.

Responding to questions over which date she would prefer at the party's ard fheis in the Mullingar Park Hotel, Co Westmeath, today, Limerick-TD Ms O'Sullivan said Friday should be the only option on the table.

A procession of 'mourners' carry a coffin outside the Labour conference in Mullingar in a protest by Protect Rural Ireland to highlight Labour's strong support for wind farm development and associated pylons over the wishes and rights of rural communities. Pic : Lorraine O'Sullivan

"The most important thing with an election is it should be held at a time when people go out and vote.

"It seems that Friday is the best day in terms of turnout, we tried Saturday for referendum but it wasn't all that successful in terms of numbers.

"So I'm inclined to go for a Friday. But I'm not the Taoiseach," she said before junior minister at the Department of Health Kathleen Lynch interjected to add: "Or the Minister for Environment [Labour's deputy leader Alan Kelly] who will be signing the order."

With suggestions Fine Gael and Labour will hold a joint press conference on Tuesday for an as yet unspecified reason, Mr Kelly had earlier told reporters he was convinced the coalition colleagues would be able to agree a date - presumably without any need for questionable rucking or spear tackling to win control of the election ball.

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