There is a lot of speculation that the next Irish General Election will be around this time next year, Autumn 2024.
The election must be held by Spring 2025, so what’s the rush?
Well politically, October 2024 after a popular Budget is seen as a good date.
The Government will be hoping that it will have delivered better on problems with health, housing and homelessness.
The cost of living crisis should have eased, and the hope is the war in Ukraine will have ended by then.
Nothing is certain, of course.
On health, major problems remain with emergency department overcrowding, very long waiting lists for treatment and eye-watering cost overruns on the new National Children’s Hospital.
That hospital is likely to cost north of €2.5 billion. Has any country ever spent even a third of that building a hospital?
But the Government can point to some gains on health, free GP care now expanded to under 7s, free contraception for people aged 17-30, plus public funding for assisted human reproduction.
Ireland’s health service ranks about 80th in the world and life expectancy has been steadily rising.
But politics is wider than health.
Opposition parties and especially Sinn Fein will seize on the problems people have getting affordable housing, the slow build of new houses and a massive shortage of housing stock, soaring rents and the cost of living.
These are areas where the current Government would need big wins to hope to get back into power.
The other big factor is that the Electoral Commission has just recommended 14 more TDs be elected, given the growth in the population. This will favour Sinn Fein in those areas of large population growth but social deprivation too.
The current Government could get back in, or involve a coalition with other parties, Sinn Fein could get absolute power, or also be in coalition, most likely with Fianna Fáil.
But one thing is certain, the next General Election is shaping up to be a fascinating one and one that has big implications for the future direction of Ireland.