Taoiseach Leo Varadkar has said he has made a decision on a General Election date but "protocol" means he is not announcing it yet.

Speaking on RTÉ's This Week, he said he would not reveal the date before Cabinet on Tuesday and that there is still some unfinished business to do.

He added that he would like to speak to the Cabinet and the leader of the Opposition and that the Dáil will reconvene as planned on Wednesday.

The Taoiseach held talks with Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin last week to discuss the matter and is due to meet him again this week.

Mr Varadkar said he always believed the right time for an election would be in the summer but he acknowledged that things have changed with regard to Brexit and Stormont.

He said getting a deal on Brexit was the "big job of this Government" and a huge amount of work had been put into getting the institutions back up and running in Northern Ireland.

But he acknowledged the arithmetic of the Dáil has changed and when asked about a confidence motion in the Minister for Health Simon Harris, due on 5 February, he said "a Taoiseach that can't appoint their own Cabinet is a Taoiseach in name only".

Asked about Fianna Fáil TD John McGuinness who earlier said he could not abstain from a vote of no confidence in Mr Harris, Mr Varadkar said that would make it impossible for Fianna Fáil to continue to support the confidence and supply deal.  


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The Taoiseach described a "deep crisis" in the health service but said the Government has made progress and that in the election campaign he would hope to explain the changes made.

He said that a previous Fianna Fáil government had cut 2,000 hospital beds and that in the last couple of years Fine Gael had reversed that policy by adding 1,000 beds.  

When challenged on that figure, Mr Varadkar said the 1,000 extra beds was from 2014 onwards, adding "whether it's 1,000 or 600 we have added hospital beds" and that that was reversing the policy by Fianna Fáil to cut beds.  

He said there was never going to be a quick fix for the health service, that a lot of countries have problems with their health services and the number of people on waiting lists has come down during this Government's tenure. 

When asked about Fine Gael's promise in its 2016 General Election manifesto that 93% of patients would be dealt with in emergency departments within six hours, while last year that figure was 63%, the Taoiseach said progress had been made in the health service and that there is more to be done. 

Mr Varadkar said different stories about homelessness were "shocking" including the young boy eating dinner off cardboard and an older woman found this week in Dublin city centre.

The Taoiseach said when he sees the homelessness figures, he is spurred on and is reminded of the work that still needs to be done and that investment in social housing over the next five years will "make the difference". 

He said that since he has become Taoiseach, the number of new houses built has trebled and house prices are levelling off because more houses were built last year than any other year in the last decade.

He said that is important for first-time buyers and referred to his own experience.

"One thing I always remember is, and I'll never forget it, is the experience of turning the key in my own door. Going into my own apartment, sitting on my own couch and turning on my own TV. And I want home ownership to be a reality for everyone in this country." 

Referring to the renewal of Stormont, Mr Varadkar said the Government will get the North-South co-operation going again in terms of infrastructure projects.

When asked about the now-cancelled RIC commemoration in Dublin Castle, Mr Varadkar said there was no Cabinet approval for it and that any consultation carried out about the event was not adequate.  He said if there was to be a future event, there would have to be cross party consensus for it.