Wednesday 26 April 2017

Six Fianna Fail TDs call for half-year by-election rule

Fiach Kelly Political Correspondent

LAWS forcing the Government to hold a by-election within six months of a Dail vacancy arising should be introduced, an all-party body said yesterday.

The recommendation -- which six TDs and one senator from Fianna Fail put their names to -- flies in the face of Taoiseach Brian Cowen's refusal to hold the three outstanding by-elections.

But the Fianna Fail TDs on the Oireachtas Committee on the Constitution, which released its report on the electoral system yesterday, recently voted against a Dail bill that would have introduced a six-month rule.

Of the six FF TDs on the committee, five -- Mary O'Rourke, Michael Woods, Ned O'Keeffe, Michael Kennedy and Jimmy Devins, an independent FF TD -- voted against the Fine Gael bill two months ago. The other TD, Sean Ardagh, was absent from the vote because of illness.

FG environment spokesman Phil Hogan tabled the bill to try to force Mr Cowen to call the by-elections that are due in Waterford, Donegal South-West and Dublin South, but it was defeated in the Dail.

Mr Cowen has consistently said the timing of the elections was a matter for the Dail, even though he instructs his own TDs which way to vote.

Government Chief Whip John Curran said the Dail was too busy to hold the elections and also claimed the political parties had to focus on the economy rather than elections.

A defeat in the three by-elections would further decrease the Government's already slim Dail majority and cast doubt on the stability of the coalition.

Another recommendation in the report said that, alternatively, general election candidates should nominate people to take their place in the Dail in the case of resignation or death.

EDITORIAL COMMENT: PAGE 24

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