By-election a 'farce' as national vote looms
A BY-election battle descended into farce yesterday when the first votes were cast in the poll -- just as a general election loomed in as little as six weeks from now.
With the bill for the Donegal South West by-election fast approaching €300,000, it now appears the winner may end up being one of the shortest serving TDs in Dail history.
Voting yesterday got under way on five off-shore islands, three days ahead of polling on the mainland, but as the first votes were being cast, the spectre of a general election loomed over the constituency.
Even before yesterday's twin bombshells by the Green Party and the two key independent TDs, the relevance of a by-election so late in the Government's lifetime was being questioned.
On top of the estimated €300,000 cost will be a legal bill that could run to at least €150,000 as a result of the successful High Court challenge taken by Sinn Fein Senator Pearse Doherty.
Labour Party candidate Frank McBrearty described it as an "unnecessary expense" and called instead for an early general election.
"But this Government has never been worried about wasting money," said Mr McBrearty.
Fine Gael leader Enda Kenny and Sinn Fein president Gerry Adams also called for an immediate general election.
Meanwhile, Fianna Fail has been accused of trying to "buy the electorate" in Donegal South West after a series of "new" projects were announced for the constituency in recent days.
At the weekend, a tourism project for the seacliffs of Slieve League, which was first unveiled last July, was launched in Ballyshannon.
At Mass in Glenties, a priest revealed that work would begin shortly on a €2m primary-care health centre, which has been promised since 2007.
In a live radio debate on Ocean FM yesterday, FF candidate Senator Brian O Domhnaill announced that, within weeks, a special bus would be available to transport cancer sufferers to hospital in Galway for treatment.
But this was later denied by the Sligo Save Our Cancer Services group, which has been campaigning for the bus since breast cancer services were transferred from Sligo General Hospital two years ago. They have been told that it will be next March at the earliest before the bus is provided by the Friends of Sligo General Hospital charity.
Tanaiste Mary Coughlan was due to open an emergency call-answering service centre in Ballyshannon yesterday, six months after the centre opened for business, but she was forced to cancel at the last minute to attend an emergency meeting in Dublin.
Independent election candidate Thomas Pringle accused Fianna Fail of engaging in cynical politics. "There is no limits to the depths they will sink," he said.