Politics watch: Election battlelines, Ukrainian refugees, Israel-Hamas war

James Cox

Here, we have a look at the topics likely to dominate political debate in the Dáil in the coming week.

Election battlelines

We know there will be local and European elections in 2024. However, a general election is very possible too.

The next election must be called by March 2025. However, there have been persistent rumours that the Government is considering calling one next year.

Coalition figures often dismiss this half-heartedly, but reading between the lines of their rhetoric shows a different picture.

At her party's recent ard fheis, Sinn Féin leader Mary Lou McDonald spoke of a future government without Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael. However, she is keeping her options opening by insisting the party will speak to anyone about a coalition after the next election.

Tánaiste Micheál Martin would not be keen about working with Sinn Féin, but others in his party have suggested they would be more open to the idea.

One thing for sure is that Fine Gael will not be working with the party.

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar did nothing to dampen rumours of a looming election year when he took aim at Sinn Féin over the weekend.

After criticising the main opposition party at a Fine Gael event on Saturday, the Taoiseach rounded on opinion poll-leaders Sinn Féin again on Sunday.

Mr Varadkar said that he finds the idea of a Sinn Féin politician as a justice, foreign affairs or defence minister “repugnant”.

“It’s highly disturbing, the idea of there being a Sinn Féin justice minister, or foreign affairs minister, or defence minister, is repugnant to me,” he told RTÉ’s The Week In Politics.

“There’s a lot of people talking about some of the horrific things that are happening now in the Middle East. We have, in Sinn Féin, a party that will not acknowledge war crimes that may have happened in this country, and they still need to be investigated.

“Those people need to be brought to justice and the families need to get the answers and justice that they need.”

This will set up some familiarly hostile exchanges in the Dáil this week.

Ukrainian refugees

There has been high tension over the number of Ukrainian refugees being accommodated in Ireland for a while now, and Mr Varadkar said Ireland "needs to slow the flow" of Ukrainian refugees and reform its offering to others seeking asylum.

Speaking on Sunday afternoon, Mr Varadkar said that Ireland's offering to incoming Ukrainian and other refugees would have to change because it was not feasible to continue to take in people with no limits.

The rate of increase of Ukrainians arriving in Ireland over the past 12 months was 10 times higher than the average increase in numbers fleeing to the EU from Ukraine over the same period.

Official statistics published by the European Commission show that there has been a 72.1 per cent increase in the number of Ukrainians seeking international protection in the Republic in the 12 months to the end of September 2023 as a result of the Russian invasion of Ukraine.

Israel-Hamas war

The Israel-Hamas war will continue to dominate proceedings in Leinster House.

Sinn Féin, People Before Profit and the Social Democrats are likely to continue their criticism of the Government over their stance on Israel at Leaders' Questions on Tuesday.

Motions from the Social Democrats and Sinn Féin, on expelling the Israeli ambassador and referring Israel to the International Criminal Court, were both defeated last week.

They accuse Government of being too soft. However, Ireland has been strong in its calls for Israeli restraint, evidenced by the hostility of some Israeli ministers who have criticised comments from Government ministers.


In the US, voter anxiety over the seemingly inevitable 2024 presidential election re-match of Donald Trump and Joe Biden is rising. With Mr Biden turning 81 on Monday, this is likely to continue as a talking point.

There seems to be an increased appetite for third-party candidates, such as Robert F Kennedy Jr, the anti-vaccine activist and member of the famous Kennedy family.

In the UK, talk of a general election is even more frequent than it is here. Rishi Sunak's fragile government has to call one by January 2025, but in all likelihood it will come next year.

The UK Covid Inquiry is also continuing, with the evidence not reflecting well on former prime minister Boris Johnson.