Government to 'consider' by-election judgement
Taoiseach Brian Cowen said the Government would consider the High Court judgment on the long-awaited Donegal South-West by-election.
"Obviously we have to consider the judgment and its implications and I believe that any further comment prior to consideration is premature," he told the Dail.
He said the Government argued in court that the Constitution imposed no time limit for holding by-elections but left the matter to the Oireachtas.
But Fine Gael leader Enda Kenny highlighted the High Court's ruling that the delay was unreasonable.
"The question is are you going to sit over there and hang on and attempt to stay in power when the High Court of the land says it is unreasonable to have a delay of this length in giving the people of this constituency their opportunity to cast verdict on the Government by way of having a by-election?"
Labour leader Eamon Gilmore asked whether the Government intended to appeal over the decision.
"The only reason that these by-elections haven't been held is that the present Government is using a flaky majority which is based on a reduced number of members in this house in order to stop holding the by-elections so that they can stay in office," he added.
Government Chief Whip John Curran said state lawyers had argued that there was no time limit under the Constitution for by-elections to be held.
"The court took the view that there should be implied into the legislation a requirement that by-elections be held within a reasonable time," Mr Curran said.
"The Government will now consider the judgment and its implications."
Ruairi Quinn, Labour's education spokesman, said the ruling would deprive the Government of "any shred of moral authority" to refuse to allow the by-election.
"The minister with responsibility for the electoral matters is (Green Party leader and Environment Minister) John Gormley," Mr Quinn said.
"It is disappointing that he has refused to take a stand on this issue and insist that people of Donegal South-West, Dublin South, Waterford and Donegal North-East are allowed to have the level of representation in the Dail provided under the Constitution and the law."