Government to consider ruling - Cowen


Taoiseach Brian Cowen has told the Dáil that the Government will have to consider the implications of the High Court ruling that the Donegal South West byelection had been unreasonably delayed.

Mr Cowen said when the issue was raised on the Order of Business said he could not comment on the judgment until it he had considered it.

"I've given no intention as to what our intentions would be regarding any outcome until we have a chance," he said. "The Government will now consider the judgment and its implications" and any "further comment prior to this consideration" would be premature.

Sinn Féin North Kerry TD Martin Ferris said the Government had been found "guilty" of depriving the people of Donegal South West of their constitutional rights.

Aengus Ó Snodaigh said Sinn Féin intended to move the writ for the byelection tomorrow morning.

The party's Donegal Senator Pearse Doherty took the case to the High Court.

In a statement, Government chief whip John Curran said "the Government notes the ruling of the High Court today. We argued in Court that Article 16.7 of the Constitution imposed no times limit for the holding of byelections but left the matter to the oireachas and that the Oireachtas had not imposed any time limit in the legislation. The Court took the view that there should be implied into the legislation a requirement that byelections be held within a reasonable time."

He also said the Government would consider the judgment.

Fine Gael leader Enda Kenny had asked the Taoiseach if he was "going to sit over there and hang on and attempt to stay in power when the High Court in the land says it is unreasonable to have a delay of this length in giving the people of this particular constituency their opportunity to cast verdict on the Government by way of having a byelection".

Labour leader Eamon Gilmore said the question being asked of the Taoiseach was not "some complicated legal question on which he is required to do a microscopic reading of the judgment and give us a learned judgment on it".

What is being asked of the Taoiseach is a political question, he said.

 "The Taoiseach said it was a matter for the Dáil," Mr Gilmore said. An all-party committee decided some time ago that byelections should be held within six months of a vacancy."

However, Mr Cowen reiterated: "This judgment has been handed down since this Dáil session started this morning. The Government will consider the judgment and its implications and take whatever decisions arise from that.

"If you don't mind I'd like the opportunity to read the judgment and have the Government consider the judgment that's only fair."