Thursday, 4 November 2010
Sinn Fein Opportunity
The Government has bowed to unprecedented pressure from the courts and agreed to a long-awaited by-election in Donegal South-West.Skip related content
The coalition now faces a mammoth battle to retake the seat targeted by Sinn Fein after it was left empty 17 months ago.
The party's Senator Pearse Doherty challenged and defeated the Government in the High Court over its refusal to set a date for the vote, but the Government said it would appeal against the ruling.
Mr Justice Nicholas Kearns supported Sinn Fein's claim that the writ for the by-election should have been moved by now but stopped short of ordering a date to be set.
After a Cabinet meeting Government Chief Whip John Curran said the writ for the poll would be moved tomorrow, with the vote held at the end of month.
"The Government, having heard the views of the Attorney General, has decided to appeal the decision of the High Court in view of the serious issues of constitutional importance raised by the judgment with very significant implications for future by-elections," Mr Curran said. "The Government nevertheless has determined in light of the judgment, to hold the Donegal South-West by-election forthwith and without seeking to await the outcome of the appeal, as it is entitled to do so."
Mr Curran said he would expect the by-election to be over by the end of November, as the Government makes final preparations for the December 7 Budget, expected to be one of the harshest in the state's history. He said Government parties found it difficult to win by-elections but added Fianna Fail would select a candidate as soon as possible and vowed to vigorously contest the campaign.
The Chief Whip said the decision to appeal against the judgment was taken on foot of information from the Attorney General on the separation of powers between the courts and the Oireachtas. The High Court ruled the Government had offended the spirit of the Constitution by failing to hold the long-awaited poll.
"I am satisfied that the delay in this case is so inordinate as to amount to a breach of the applicant's constitutional rights to such a degree as to warrant the court granting some form of relief," said Mr Justice Kearns, High Court President. "Far from the court 'tearing asunder' the provisions of the Constitution by adjudicating on this application, it is the ongoing failure to move the writ for this by-election since June 2009 which offends the terms and spirit of the Constitution and its framework for democratic representation."
Other constituencies awaiting a new TD include Waterford, after former minister Martin Cullen resigned on health grounds, Dublin South, left empty by journalist George Lee, and Donegal North-East, vacated by Dr Jim McDaid.