Donegal SW by-election set for 25 November

Thursday 04 November 2010 22.04
Dáil - Angry exchanges over by-election issues
Dáil - Angry exchanges over by-election issues

Tánaiste Mary Coughlan has announced that the Donegal South West by-election will take place on Thursday 25 November.

The writ to hold the Donegal South West by-election was passed this afternoon without a division by the Dáil.

Opposition motions to hold the Dublin South, Donegal North East and Waterford by-elections have been defeated.

Speaking on RTÉ’s Six One, Taoiseach Brian Cowen said the people of Donegal had not been put at a disadvantage by the delay in holding the by-election.

He said the Government accepted the spirit of the High Court judgement, and had moved the writ accordingly, but he said they were appealing the decision to the Supreme Court because a point of law needed to be clarified.

The Dáil was suspended twice this morning as the Opposition repeatedly tried to raise the issue of the outstanding by-elections.

Amid noisy exchanges, Fine Gael, Labour and Sinn Féin criticised the Government's intention to appeal yesterday's High Court ruling on the Donegal South West by-election to the Supreme Court.

Fine Gael leader Enda Kenny said the action would cost the taxpayer more and the Government was trying to prolong their stay in power by delaying the three other contests.

Fine Gael is to bring legal proceedings seeking to have the by-elections in Waterford and Dublin South held as soon as possible.

Labour leader Eamon Gilmore said it was a political ruse and that the Government had been forced to hold the by-election.

Fine Gael's Alan Shatter said the Government is afraid of the electorate. He said there are now solid grounds for making a court case for the other by-elections.

The Taoiseach said the Government had a constitutional right to appeal the ruling because the judgment had implications for the separation of powers.

He said there was a need for certainty on the legal position regarding future by-elections.

Government Whip John Curran meanwhile denied that Fianna Fáil ministers had their hands forced on the timing of the Donegal by-election by their Green colleagues.

Seanad debate

There has also been much criticism in the Seanad about the Government's decision to go to the Supreme Court with the High Court ruling on the Donegal South West by-election.

Sinn Féin's Pearse Doherty, who took the High Court action on the Donegal South West by-election, said the courts had the right to step in when the constitutional right of a citizen was being denied.

He described the intention to launch a Supreme Court appeal as a disgrace and said it was an attempt to frustrate any future legal challenges in relation to the other empty Dáil seats.

Fine Gael Leader in the House Frances Fitzgerald said it was disturbing that the Government was using taxpayers' money to delay the democratic right of citizens.

She said the Government was intent on leaving the other three empty seats in the Dáil vacant and compared the Government's action to that of a dictatorship, which seeks to deny the rights of its citizens to vote.

Labour's Alex White said the Government could go to the Supreme Court but that this should not stop the other three by-elections from taking place.

Green Party Senator Dan Boyle denied that the Government was attempting to delay the holding of the outstanding by-elections.

He said it was a 'set practice' for the Government to go to the Supreme Court on constitutional matters, a statement that was rejected by Senator Ivana Bacik.

Senator Boyle said it was always the Government's intention to hold the by-elections as part of a wider electoral contest, such as the Children's Rights referendum, in order to save as much money as possible.

Candidates

The Labour Party this morning announced that its candidate for Donegal South West will be Frank McBrearty junior.

Barry O'Neill will be the Fine Gael candidate.

Meanwhile, Pat 'The Cope' Gallagher has confirmed to RTÉ News that he will not be standing in the upcoming by-election for Donegal South West.

He also told the News at One that his wife Ann was unlikely to be a candidate.

Speaking from Brussels this morning, he said Fianna Fáil must look to another candidate.

The selection convention for the Fianna Fáil candidate will be held on Sunday at 6pm.

No more 'men overboard' - Curran

The Government Chief Whip, John Curran, has said he is confident there will not be any more 'men overboard' among the TDs supporting the coalition between now and the Budget.

John Curran was speaking after a meeting of the Fianna Fáil Parliamentary Party, which discussed the forthcoming Donegal South West by-election and the Budget.

He said backbenchers were conscious of the challenges facing the Government, but understood the need to continue correcting the public finances.