THE Government was accused of “giving the two fingers” to thousands of voters around the country by holding off three outstanding by-elections until April.
Government chief whip John Curran last night confirmed the Government will move writs for by-elections in Waterford, Dublin South and Donegal West in the first quarter of 2011.
“The vote itself must be held between 18 and 25 days after the day in which the writ is issued,” he said, meaning polling day could be extended until the end of April at the latest.
This has increased speculation that a general election could take place around April or May next year as the Government’s slim majority might not survive the loss of three more seats.
The coalition had just four votes to spare last night to defeat a FG motion to move the writ for all three outstanding by-elections.
The Government is fighting a High Court action by Sinn Féin senator Pearse Doherty trying to force it into holding the Donegal West by-election.
But Deputy Curran told the Dáil last night the fact that it has not been held “does not give rise to a violation of the Constitution”.
Sinn Féin’s Dáil leader, Caoimhghín O Caoláin, said there was a “major flaw in the Constitution” that there was “no provision for a by-election to be held within a reasonable time of the vacancy arising”.
He said: “A Government without a mandate is denying democracy to the people of three constituencies and people of the state as a whole.”
Fine Gael leader Enda Kenny said he was “appalled that when 80 families are having their electricity supply cut off every day, the Government continues to spend taxpayers’ money in the High Court to defend their majority”.
Taoiseach Brian Cowen said by-elections will not be held this year because the Government is involved in budget preparations and restructuring the banking system and “that’s of vital importance to the country”.
He said: “I believe given that the detail of what we have to deal with at the moment, the importance of political stability, the importance of dealing with economic issues, it’s more likely to be taken in 2011.”
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