Paschal Donohoe pours cold water election this year, but says FG tax cut pledge is a 'priority' when it happens

FINANCE Minister Paschal Donohoe has poured cold water on the prospect of a snap election being called this year.

But he said Fine Gael’s pledge on income tax cuts will be a “priority” for him when the country does go to the polls.

There has been intense speculation that Taoiseach Leo Varadkar will call an election next month to capitalise on any bounce form a Brexit deal being secured.

Mr Varadkar last night failed to rule a pre-Christmas general election, while insisting he wants the vote to take place in May 2020.

Mr Donohoe said that Mr Varadkar “has given a commitment and an aim that we will have an election approaching next summer.”

He said the Taoiseach reaffirmed this plan in a number of meetings yesterday.

Mr Donohoe added: “We’ve always made clear that we want to conclude where we are with the Brexit process, make sure we’re clear what that means for the country and that we put the right measures in place to protect our economy and our island.”

He said: “I don’t believe there will be an election before Christmas.

“I think we are at a point at which there are many bridges still ahead in the Brexit process and my expectation is there will be an election in 2020 and not this year.”

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Fine Gael has promised that the threshold where workers hit the higher 40pc rate of income tax will be raised to €50,000 over five years.

Mr Donohoe was asked if he could give a commitment to voters the party will make good on that promise.

He said that clarity would be needed on Brexit first and argued that Budget 2020 – which didn’t include income tax cuts – is the right economic strategy given the current uncertainty about the UK leaving the EU.

He said once Brexit is clear – particularly if there’s a deal – ” it will be possible to continue to make progress on reducing the point at which taxpayers pay the higher rate of income tax.”

And he signalled that it will be a central part of Fine Gael’s next election manifesto.

He said: “It continues to be my view that we have to make continued progress on reducing the point at which middle income and low income earners are paying the higher rate of income tax.”

“That will continue to be my priority from a personal tax point of view and an income tax perspective.

“If and when we get to the point of an election being called in Ireland I’ll be continuing to emphasise that.”

Mr Donohoe added: “But I think where we are at the moment is we have to conclude the negotiations that are underway in relation to Brexit and I’ll be going on to implement the Finance Bill for 2020.”

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