Monday 18 December 2017

FG gets green light to launch new court fight for by-elections

Allison Bray and Tim Healy

The High Court yesterday gave the green light for two Fine Gael members to take the Government to court for failing to hold two more crucial by-elections.

Paudie Coffey, a Fine Gael senator from Waterford, welcomed the High Court ruling granting leave to hear his challenge against the Government over its failure to hold by-elections in the Waterford and Dublin South constituencies.

Mr Coffey and Fine Gael's South Dublin constituency chairman Michael van Turnhout took the proceedings after Sinn Fein senator Pierse Doherty won a similar challenge in the High Court last week.

High Court President Mr Justice Nicholas Kearns ruled the Government's delay in moving a writ for the Donegal South West by-election since the seat became vacant 16 months ago amounted to a breach of Mr Doherty's constitutional rights.

The latest actions arise out of vacancies created when former RTE business editor George Lee resigned his seat in Dublin South in February and when Martin Cullen resigned his seat in Waterford in March for health reasons.

"This is an urgent case for the people of Waterford, who are entitled to equal and fair representation in accordance with the Constitution and the recent High Court ruling in the Doherty case. Progress is being impeded by the Government who are employing every delaying tactic in the book," Mr Coffey said.


He accused the Government of "perpetrating a continuing constitutional wrong in its failure to move the Waterford and Dublin South writs".

Mr Coffey added: "The Government is motivated only by their determination to evade the electorate and their actions have forced me to bring these proceedings."

Mr Coffey and Mr van Turnhout are seeking a number of declarations, including that the writ for the by-elections be moved within a reasonable time.

They will also argue that the delay in moving the writ is unreasonable, unlawful and in breach of their rights.

They will argue that motions made to the Dail to move the writs were defeated by the Government which adversely affected the rights of people living in both constituencies.

Mr Justice Michael Peart granted leave to hear the proceedings on Thursday.

The court also heard yesterday that the Chief State Solicitor's Office has indicated that the Government is to lodge an appeal against the Doherty judgment with the Supreme Court.

The Government intends to seek an early hearing in the Supreme Court, Mr Justice Peart was told.

Meanwhile, the controversial owner of a so-called 'bog hotel' near the home of Tanaiste Mary Coughlan has ruled himself out of running in the Donegal South West by-election.

But Patsy Brogan (73), who operates a private bar at his home in the Bluestack Mountains, said he may still contest the next General Election.

Irish Independent

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