Mr Varadkar urged members of the Irish Parliament, or Dáil, known as TDs, they could not afford to miss Parliamentary votes and urged them to begin fundraising for a general election next year. His two-page letter, sent to all of Fine Gael’s TDs, outlined four priorities between now and Christmas, including passing the Budget and securing a Brexit deal. He wrote: “During this crucial period, I ask that you make every effort to make votes if you are not paired.
“We lost a few votes in the last session that we should not have.
“Reversing parliamentary defeats is time-consuming, downgrades other priorities, and is not always possible.”
He also downplayed Fine Gael’s chances of success in the forthcoming by-elections, which he said would happen “towards the end of November”.
He pointed out that just one of the four had previously been held by a Fine Gael candidate, adding: “It is very rare for parties in government to win by-elections in any case”.
Leo Varadkar has acknowledged his Government is under pressure
Leo Varadkar tries his hand at ploughing in Carlow yesterday
Fine Gael, which has 58 of the 158 seats in the assembly currently, has a confidence and supply agreement with Fianna Fail, which has 43, and neither party is keen on the idea of an election before the Brexit question has been resolved.
Fianna Fail’s Brexit policy includes a commitment to push for Northern Ireland to be designated as a Special Economic Zone, a move which some in Westminster have advocated as a way of solving the impasse arrangements for the Irish border after Brexit – although such a move would be opposed by the Democratic Unionist Party (DUP).
In his letter, Mr Varadkar emphasised that “party fundraising is crucial”, stressing Fine Gale needed to replenish funds he said had been “depleted” by the recent local and European elections, as well as the by-elections themselves.
All TDs and Senators – who sit in the Seanad Eireann, or Senate of Ireland – were urged to attend at least one of a series of fundraising events.
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Boris Johnson and Leo Varadkar earlier this month
Emphasising his desire to win another five-year term in office, Mr Varadkar added: “We are neck and neck with Fianna Fail in the polls.
“We have the best team and the best policies.
“The country is on the right track, and the economy is strong.
“Opposition is far easier than Government, but it is not a fraction as rewarding.”
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Fianna Fail leader Michael Martin
Leo Varadkar met DUP leader Arlene Foster yesterday
The result of the next general election was “largely up to all of us, and how we perform as a Government, as a party, and as a united team in the few months ahead.”
Speaking today, Mr Varadkar says he will try to get a deal on Brexit when he meets UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson in New York next week.
He said: “We were in touch today. I’m going to meet him next week in New York and try to get a deal.”
The leaders will both be attending the UN Climate Action Summit.
How a no deal Brexit would impact Ireland
Last week in Dublin, the pair had their first meeting since Mr Johnson became Prime Minister in July.
Their discussions were described as positive but the British government has yet to provide what the EU considers credible, alternative proposals to the backstop.
Mr Varadkar held a 45-minute meeting with the DUP leader Arlene Foster in Dublin on Wednesday where they discussed Brexit and ongoing efforts to restore the Northern Ireland Assembly.
Accentuating the positive, he said: “If I were to assess the situation, I would say there is a real willingness to find a deal.”
Ray Bassett said Mr Varadkar’s poll numbers are likely to get worse
Dr Ray Bassett, the former Irish ambassador to Canada, Jamaica and the Bahamas, told Express.co.uk: “The poll ratings for Varadkar and the Fine Gael party are falling and are likely to fall further if there is a hard Brexit so the Taoiseach must be tempted to go for an election now.
“While both Fine Gael and Fianna Fail are pro-EU, FG is traditionally more pro Federalist and FF more nationalist.
“The Founder of FF Eamon de Valera, was Eurosceptical, warning against Ireland being part of a European Parliament or Euro army.
“FF is much more committed to neutrality but present leader Michael Martin more pro EU than many in his party.”