Tuesday 25 April 2017

FG calls for by-election, but not one to replace George Lee

Michael Brennan Political Correspondent

FINE Gael was accused of "political opportunism" by calling for a by-election in Waterford -- but not one in Dublin South where George Lee previously held his seat.

The Government yesterday voted down opposition attempts to hold the Waterford by-election to replace former minister Martin Cullen on the grounds that it needed to concentrate on "lifting Ireland out of recession".

But Fine Gael leader Enda Kenny said his party wanted to see by-elections within six months of a TD resigning.

However, his party has yet to call for the Dublin South by-election, even though its representative Mr Lee resigned six weeks before Mr Cullen.

Government chief whip John Curran accused Fine Gael of "political opportunism" over its call for a by-election in Waterford -- where it has a candidate -- but not in Dublin South, where it has none.

'Cowardice'

"The Government will be staying focused on bringing jobs not just to the country generally but to Waterford in particular, and on lifting Ireland out of recession. That is the reason why we will vote against the motion," he said.

But Mr Kenny in turn accused the Government of "political cowardice" for holding off on the by-elections for fear of further weakening its slim majority.

He said his party would be bringing forward a private members' motion next week to ensure that all by-elections are held within six months of a vacancy arising. "We will see if the Government puts its money where its mouth is," he said.

There is currently no time limit for the holding of a by-election.

Fine Gael is pushing for the by-election to be held as soon as possible as the party's local senator Paudie Coffey is the clear favourite to win it.

But the Government yesterday defeated the Fine Gael motion comfortably by 77 votes to 72.

Irish Independent

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