Taoiseach Leo Varadkar has confirmed the date of Ireland's General Election.

The country will go to the polls on Saturday 8 February.

Mr Varadkar made the announcement outside Government Buildings on Tuesday, following a meeting with his Cabinet.

He later went on to ask President Michael D Higgins to formally dissolve the Dáil.

"I have always said the election should happen at the best time for the country - now is that time,” Leo Varadkar said.

The poll will be Mr Varadkar's first General Election as Taoiseach, and the first Irish General Election to be held on a Saturday.

He outlined his rationale for the decision, saying a deal on Brexit had been achieved and the UK would exit the EU in an "orderly" fashion.

"There will be no hard border, citizens' rights have been protected and the Common Travel Area will remain in place," he said.

Fianna Fáil Leader Micheál Martin refused to be drawn on his chances of becoming taoiseach, despite his party polling favourably in recent weeks.

When asked if he accepted he was the frontrunner in the campaign, Mr Martin said he "didn't accept anything of the sort".

He said: "I'm a humble man as you know and as far as I'm concerned it's very competitive, I think it's neck and neck if I'm honest."

Sinn Féin President Mary Lou McDonald said her party have "listened and learned" from their local election losses.

The party went from 159 council seats to 81 in the local elections last June

Ms McDonald said she is nevertheless optimistic they can gain more seats in the Dáil as she looks forward to her first election as leader.

"We're setting out to defend the seats that we hold, we're confident we can do that, we don't underestimate the challenge, but we're confident," she said.

"Every election is about convincing people voter by voter and there is no room for complacency."