Taoiseach Leo Varadkar has said that while he does not expect an election, it was prudent to be ready for one.

Speaking to reporters at the Fine Gael parliamentary party's two-day think-in in Galway, he said while he did not think there would be an election yet, it was prudent to ready for "all eventualities".

"Just as we are preparing for a no-deal Brexit, even though we think that is unlikely to happen, obviously we have to be prepared for a general election were that to occur," he told reporters.

He said that candidates had been selected in all but four constituencies, and the remaining selection conventions would take place in the coming weeks.

The Taoiseach noted that this Saturday marks Fine Gael's 85th birthday and this was an opportunity to reflect on the issues affecting the party and the country.

On Brexit, he said the country's absolute position remained that there had to be an Irish protocol as part of the withdrawal agreement.

"We've always been flexible on the detail and the language and that's important, but the principle stands and we can't compromise on that," he said.

On a renewal of the Confidence and Supply Agreement, Mr Varadkar said: "We have asked Fianna Fáil to come to the table and talk about renewing the arrangement."

He said he was "very transparent about that as he wrote the letter to Mícheál Martin, published it five days later".

Mr Varadkar said the letter "sets out what we are looking for, which is an agreed election date in the summer of 2020, thus giving us political stability and removing any uncertainty between now and Brexit actually happening and also setting out what I believe a government of Fine Gael and Independents could actually achieve during that period.

"I think that list is very realistic in terms of what could be achieved."

Mr Varadkar's comments on an election will no doubt be discussed in depth by TDs and senators outside the main conference room.

It all means any talks about extending its Confidence and Supply Agreement with Fianna Fáil will not now begin until the second week in October at the earliest.

In the meantime, the Budget will begin to take shape and the party will today discuss its priorities.

They include some changes to the entry point at which income earners pay the top rate of tax and the delivery of a Budget that is prudent amid much international uncertainty.

Much of this stems from Brexit, which will be up for discussion, as will housing.


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When asked about claims that Fine Gael would not solve the housing crisis, Mr Varadkar said he could understand why people were sceptical about the party's ability to solve it.

Latest figures from the Department of Housing show that 9,891 people were living in hotels, bed and breakfasts and family hubs in July.

Flanagan favours 2020 election 

Meanwhile, Minister for Justice Charlie Flanagan has said that he favours a general election no sooner than 2020.

Speaking on RTÉ's Morning Ireland, he said that "this is a good Government" and it was committed to delivering stability in the Budget for people.

He said that the Taoiseach was "absolutely right" to ask Fianna Fáil to discuss an extension to the Confidence and Supply Agreement.

Separately, the minister has described as "a lost opportunity" the decision by the Oireachtas Justice Committee not to proceed in holding a referendum in October to consider removing Article 41.2 concerning women in the home from the Constitution. 

A referendum on the issue had been pencilled in for the same date at the Presidential Election on 26 October.

However, the committee said more work was needed to scrutinise the women in the home reference.

Mr Flanagan said he was fearful a debate on the issue would continue without agreement and he had favoured deleting what he termed "outdated and offensive" language to women from the Constitution.