Irish election called for May

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Ireland's president, Mary McAleese, has dissolved the country's parliament today at the request of prime minister Bertie Ahern, who will now contest an election on May 24th.

A newly elected parliament will therefore convene on June 14th at which time a new government will be elected.

Mr Ahern leads the Fianna Fail party which has dominated Irish politics for decades, but this year could see a far closer contest with the other major party Fine Gael.

Fine Gael is a centrist party which may have to form a coalition with Ireland's Labour party to beat Fianna Fail, which is currently partnered with the Progressive Democrats party.

Mr Ahern said he wanted to focus on policy issues, rather than personal attacks during the election.

"In the weeks ahead, I pledge to give the Irish people the campaign they deserve - a campaign of issues and policies, not insults and attacks," Mr Ahern said.

"I am more interested in attacking problems than attacking people."

The Irish prime minister has been in power for ten years, but Fine Gail believes it may have a great chance to overtake the normally dominant Fianna Fail for the first time in Ireland's history.

If Mr Ahern wins another term, it would make him the most successful prime minister since Eamon de Valera.

In the last general election in 2002 Fine Gael performed miserably, but this year it may take enough seats to succeed.

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