Cowen resists call for by-elections

THE Taoiseach is resisting pressure from within his own party to hold three outstanding by-elections, saying they are “more likely next year than this”.

Brian Cowen came under increasing pressure from within his own ranks after former defence minister Willie O’Dea publicly urged him to move quickly on holding the elections, which would risk collapsing the Government.

The Limerick East backbencher threatened to cause further instability by launching an attack on how the Green Party operates in Government.

In a spat that is likely to be seized by the opposition to undermine the coalition when the Dáil resumes, Mr O’Dea said the Greens had a “corrosive” effect on the working of Government.

His remarks on Friday night’s Late Late Show were followed by a call yesterday on Mr Cowen to immediately move the writs for three outstanding by-elections, meaning they would be held in January or after the budget is passed.

The Taoiseach said the elections “are more likely next year than this” because the Government is focusing on December’s budget and bringing economic and banking stability.

Voters in Donegal South West have been waiting 15 months to replace Pat The Cope Gallagher. They, along with voters in Dublin South and Waterford, will have to wait.

“Under the legislation that applies, there isn’t a fixed period in which a by-election has to be held,” Mr Cowen said.

“There will be a by-elections held in those areas,” he said, but they will be dealt with “in due course” because the electorate first wants to see budgetary and banking stability.

Government stability was also threatened by an attack by Mr O’Dea on the Green Party who forced his resignation from office in February. He accused Green ministers of instructing Senator Dan Boyle to use the social networking site Twitter to issue statements contrary to cabinet agreements.

He said this “insults and belittles both the commitment of their Government colleagues and the intelligence of the public”.

Senator Boyle denied his tweets were sanctioned by Green Party ministers. “I’m not a member of cabinet, I don’t have access to cabinet papers, I don’t have access to cabinet discussions, so I’m not too sure why the allegation is being made,” he said.

Mr O’Dea, who announced his intention to seek re-election, said he didn’t understand why the Green Party voted confidence in him in a Dáil debate before calling for his resignation the next day over controversy surrounding a defamation case taken against him by a Sinn Féin councillor.

Mr O’Dea said Green minister Eamon Ryan had requested to speak in a Dáil confidence motion, but Mr Boyle said this was not correct. “The whip’s office made a request for a Green Party speaker and Eamon agreed to be the Green Party speaker in the confidence debate,” he said.


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