Lenihan by-election to coincide with presidential vote

THE by-election to fill the late Brian Lenihan’s seat will be held in tandem with the presidential election and two referendums on October 27.

It had been expected that the by-election would be held on the same day as the other votes, and Taoiseach Enda Kenny confirmed this yesterday.

Former finance minister Mr Lenihan was the only Fianna Fáil TD in Dublin to hold his seat in February’s election, but died of pancreatic cancer in June.

The Government had hoped to hold a third referendum on the same day — the long-awaited vote to insert specific children’s rights into the Constitution. But Mr Kenny said yesterday it was not possible to do this as there were “quite complex” legal issues still to be teased out on the children’s rights issue.

Voters in Dublin West will now vote on four issues on October 27 — the by-election, the presidential election and separate referendums on cutting judges’ pay and granting Oireachtas committees greater powers of inquiry.

The rest of the country will vote on the presidential election and the two referendums.

Meanwhile, Children’s Minister Frances Fitzgerald insisted the children’s rights referendum remained a high priority for the Government.

“The wording is at present with the Attorney General. I would expect to see substantial progress in the next few weeks.

“We will then be looking at the wording and the Cabinet will decide on a date. At the moment, we don’t have a date, but it remains a high priority for the Government once we have a wording agreed…

“We are committed to wording along the lines originally proposed by the all-party constitutional committee on children…

“What is important is that it is right and that it gets support and that people understand why they are having this referendum and that we don’t have false arguments put up against it.”

Meanwhile, Fine Gael’s presidential candidate, Gay Mitchell, hinted that he would be seeking the support of Fianna Fáil voters in the Áras election.

Mr Mitchell said that while he was the “Fine Gael-backed candidate”, he would also be seeking the support of others who agreed with his positions.

“I think that we will get support from others, particularly as there’s not a Fianna Fáil candidate in the race,” he said.

Separately, the Taoiseach refused to comment on speculation linking retired civil servant Dermot McCarthy to the vacant position of ambassador to the Vatican.

The previous incumbent retired earlier this year and Tánaiste and Foreign Affairs Minister Eamon Gilmore has yet to say if he will appoint a successor as the fallout between the state and the Vatican over the Cloyne report continues.

Asked about suggestions that Mr McCarthy might be viewed as a candidate if an ambassador was appointed, Mr Kenny said: “I wouldn’t like to speculate on what the Tánaiste might decide in respect of the vacancy at the Holy See.”

Mr McCarthy, formerly secretary general at the Department of the Taoiseach, made the headlines this week after details of his €600,000 retirement lump sum and €142,000 annual pension were revealed.

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