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Monday 22 January 2018

Greens fail to press FF on dates for by-elections

ine Kerr and Eoghan MacConnell

THE Green Party has not held any formal discussions with Fianna Fail on dates for three by-elections, the children's rights referendum and the Dublin mayoral election.

Despite senior figures like Communications Minister Eamon Ryan and Senator Dan Boyle claiming they want to see all three elections held on the same day, their party has not been pushing its senior coalition partner on the issue behind the scenes.

Both parties are conscious they are unlikely to win any of the by-elections and that the loss of all three could pre-empt the demise of the Coalition.

The Dail voting numbers would get far tighter, with further Budget spending cuts and tax hikes needing to be passed.

The Greens are adamant the Dublin mayor election will go ahead as soon as possible and maintain it makes sense to hold it on the same day as the Dublin South by-election.

But the junior coalition partners have not formally broached the subject of dates and timing with Taoiseach Brian Cowen.

The Dublin major election was one of the major coups for the Greens in the Programme for Government.

Yet, with a High Court case pending over the by-election in Donegal South-West, there has been no sense of urgency to formally engage with Mr Cowen on the issue.

The Taoiseach last night continued to refuse to give any indication about poll plans.

"There have been no decisions taken on that matter. When they are we will communicate them," he said.

The High Court will hear a judicial review on October 18 into the Government's failure to hold the Donegal South West by-election. It is estimated that defending the case will cost the taxpayer €100,000 and have knock-on effects for the by-elections in Dublin South and Waterford.


The Government is defending the case, claiming it is up to the Dail to decide when a by-election is held. The case is being taken by Sinn Fein senator Pearse Doherty.

Asked if he could justify the cost, Mr Cowen replied: "I'm not seeking to justify anything. That initiative was taken by another party in that respect and we will deal with it in due course."

Deflecting repeated questions about setting dates, Mr Cowen would only say that the Government would deal with the issues in "due course".

The holding of three by-elections, a referendum and Dublin mayor election had their "own complexities".

"There are issues there that have to be addressed so . . . you deal with them on their own merits and deal with them accordingly," he said.

The Greens claim it would be politically impossible to hold the Dublin mayor election without holding the by-election for Dublin South.

They favour holding all three by-elections on the same day, alongside the Dublin mayor election and the children's referendum. Yet, the legislation needed for the mayor poll and the referendum has not yet been introduced.

Mr Ryan said over the weekend that he wanted a decision to be taken "fairly quickly" and that the votes should take place on one day.

Mr Boyle said he couldn't see any reason for staggering the by-elections.

"It would also be difficult to hold an election for a Dublin mayor without the Dublin South by-election at the same time," he said.

The Donegal South West seat has been vacant since the election of Fianna Fail's Pat 'The Cope' Gallagher to the European Parliament in June of last year.

There are also vacancies caused by the resignation of Fine Gael's George Lee in Dublin South in February and former Fianna Fail minister Martin Cullen in Waterford in March.

There is speculation the Government will set a spring date for the by-elections to avoid the risk of losing the court case.

Fine Gael strategists believe Fianna Fail has no intention of holding them and will call a General Election instead.

Irish Independent

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