Taoiseach Leo Varadkar has said that May 2020 is the "right moment" for a general election, adding that he wants it to be held next May.

He made the comment this lunchtime at a Fine Gael parliamentary party meeting at Garryvoe in east Cork. 

Mr Varadkar said May 2020 would suit as either a Brexit deal would be in place, or the Government would have "guided the country through the worst" of a no-deal Brexit.

He added it would also allow for the completion of the Dáil term, enable St Patrick's Day ministerial duties to be completed and avoid a clash with the March summit of EU leaders. 

Mr Varadkar declared: "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."

The May date was first revealed as his top preference in a letter to Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin last August.

Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs Simon Coveney also confirmed that Mr Varadkar had written to Mr Martin to say that a general election would take place next summer, in May or June.

Speaking on RTÉ's News at One, Mr Coveney said the Taoiseach wrote to Mr Martin many months ago about the date of the next election.

He said the Taoiseach asked Mr Martin for the space to allow the Government to do what it needs to for the country in relation to Brexit planning.

Mr Coveney said if there was a no-deal Brexit, the Government wants to be in a position to try to steer and protect Ireland.

He said Fine Gael was a safe pair of hands in Government.