Taoiseach Leo Varadkar was always going to have the last laugh when it came to the election date. It was always going to be on his terms.
He had been mulling over the idea of going to the polls on a Saturday for the first time in the history of the State long before his announcement on the steps of Government Buildings yesterday afternoon.
However, despite saying last weekend he had decided on the election date, it was only on Monday night he made peace with the idea of being the first Taoiseach to go the polls on a Saturday.
He initially considered holding the vote on Saturday, February 1, but had to rule that out as the Northern Assembly had not been restored in time.
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When the deal was finally struck between Northern political leaders last week, it cleared the way to holding the general election on Saturday, February 8.
The Taoiseach said he decided on the weekend vote because he wanted to make it easier for parents and students living away from home to vote.
«In holding the General Election on a Saturday for the first time, I do so knowing the inconvenience to families of a polling day on a weekday during school term — time off work, lost income, increased childcare costs,» he said.
«I also want to make it easier for students and those working away from home to cast their votes,» he added.
Mr Varadkar was heavily influenced by Finance Minister Paschal Donohoe and Tánaiste Simon Coveney, both parents with young families.
Minister of State for Higher Eduction Mary Mitchell O’Connor also made a strong case on behalf of students who previously missed out on voting when elections were held on Thursdays and Fridays.
However, a February 8 vote represents a further gamble as it takes place on the same day Ireland play Wales in the Six Nations at the Aviva and Dublin play Monaghan in Croke Park — providing ample distraction for potential voters.
Weekend votes are popular on the continent and senior Fine Gael members hope the move will feed into the image of the Taoiseach being a modern European leader.
They also hope it will increase the franchise in areas where they can win votes. The party makes no secret of targeting the people who get up early in the morning and drop their kids off at the crèche or school before going to work.
The Saturday election means schools will not close and parents will not have to look for childminders, and have more time to vote themselves.
Fine Gael also believes it will help older people to vote as neighbours or relatives off work will be able to drop them to the polling station.
Then there’s the young people. Fine Gael spent the last year boosting its climate credentials in the knowledge it will be a key issue in this election.
Younger voters are especially engaged on environmental issues and Fine Gael believes it appeals more to this demographic than Fianna Fáil. So the more younger voters, the better for Fine Gael.