Cabinet silent on by-election court challenge

THE Government has declined to clarify its position on an ongoing High Court bid to force it into calling a by-election in Donegal south west.

Sinn Féin senator Pearse Doherty has asked the court to intervene because under the Constitution all citizens are entitled to a certain proportion of representation in the Dáil.

However, since Pat the Cope Gallagher was elected to the European Parliament in June 2009, there has been a vacancy in Donegal.

Reports have now suggested the Cabinet is poised to commit to holding the by-election in March next year, to avoid a showdown in the High Court.

The Government press office said the Dáil had voted on the issue earlier this year and on that basis the by-election had not been called.

And it would not comment on whether its legal defence would change when the case is heard again on October 5.

Mr Doherty’s High Court challenge only relates to the Donegal south west election, where he would be among the favourites to win a seat.

He said his bid would not be deterred by a promise to hold the election next year and to end the case the Government would have to move the writ.

The status of the vacant seats in Dublin south, caused by George Lee’s resignation, and in Waterford, brought on by Martin Cullen’s retirement, are separate.

The need for both these elections were triggered this year.

However, the Government was yesterday put under pressure from within its own ranks.

Fianna Fáil backbencher, and former junior minister, Sean Power, said the by-elections should be called because all citizens were entitled to their full complement of TDs.

He said the votes should not be delayed any longer.

The Cabinet is split on whether the by-elections should be held together, along with up to four referenda, on the same bumper ballot. This would be cheaper than calling two separate elections, however it would expose the Government to a potentially humiliating series of defeats on the one day.

Green Party chairman Dan Boyle said all the by-elections should be held next spring.


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