Wednesday 21 March 2018

Cowen to blow €100,000 on avoiding by-election date

Sinn Fein launches court bid to force poll for Donegal seat

Michael Brennan and Brian Hutton

TAOISEACH Brian Cowen is ready to blow €100,000 of taxpayers money on a High Court battle to try and stop the Government being forced to name a date for a by-election.

Fianna Fail is virtually certain to lose the Donegal South West by-election and is determined to try and put the contest off for as long as possible.

The Government confirmed yesterday it would be contesting the case being brought by Sinn Fein's Senator Pearse Doherty, who is attempting to force it to name a date.

A judge ordered the case could go ahead on October 18 in a row over the delay in filling Pat 'The Cope' Gallagher's vacant Dail seat.


The former Fianna Fail junior minister's election to the European Parliament last June has left the Donegal South West constituency under-represented in the Dail for more than a year.

But Taoiseach Brian Cowen would not be drawn on a date for the by-election after the option to avoid the court costs was pointed out to him.

"We'll deal with that on another occasion. We're opening a road today," he said, at the opening of the final section of the Belfast to Dublin motorway outside Newry.

A legal source has estimated a two-day hearing of the case in the High Court would cost in the region of €100,000 when the legal fees of both sides are included.

The State has hired senior counsel Brian Murphy, who is regarded as one of the best constitutional lawyers in the country.

However, there will be no need for the case to go ahead as scheduled if Mr Cowen names a date for the by-election when the Dail returns at the end of September.

At the High Court yesterday, Mr Doherty, who is hoping to take the seat in any by-election, continued his legal challenge in an attempt to force the Government to "move the writ" for a by-election.

The High Court president, Justice Nicholas Kearns, said the hearing would be able to go ahead on October 18 if a judge was available on that day.

The Government has repeatedly denied opposition claims that it is delaying the by-election due to fears that its slim voting majority would be further weakened by an opposition victory.

Sinn Fein president Gerry Adams yesterday accused the Government of "running scared from the people" and also said it was an abuse of power.

"It is a disgrace that the Government had to be forced into court today to answer for their behaviour.

"And it is an even bigger disgrace that they are going to waste taxpayers' money and time fighting this case in an attempt to postpone the inevitable," he said.

Mr Doherty said the Government's decision to fight the case has delayed the by-election even further.

"If the Government had any sense of decency it would have used the opportunity today to set a date for an election rather than a court case," he said outside the High Court.


Two other seats remain empty in the Dail after ex-Fine Gael Dublin South TD George Lee resigned in February and former Fianna Fail minister Martin Cullen stepped down as Waterford TD in March.

Irish Independent

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