Coalition split over date for by-elections
A split is developing between Fianna Fail and the Greens over the junior Coalition party's belief that the three pending by-elections should be held in conjunction with a proposed Dublin mayoral election in the autumn.
Fianna Fail are anxious to postpone the by-elections indefinitely, for if the three are lost to opposition candidates the Government would be left with a slim 84 to 81 seat majority.
This would leave Taoiseach Brian Cowen's government dependent on the support of a collection of political eccentrics such as James McDaid, who has already called for an autumn election and the former Fine Gael minister Michael Lowry.
The prospect of holding the three by-elections in the autumn was initially raised by John Gormley in an interview on Today FM's The Last Word.
He has been supported by Communications Minister Eamon Ryan, who believes that "holding the by-elections in conjunction with constitutional referenda and mayoral elections is the most efficient way of dealing with the issue''.
Mr Ryan said the autumn would be the most appropriate time to hold these elections and that it would be "more in keeping with the spirit of the Constitution" to do this.