The Government has decided to bring the Dáil back a week earlier from its Easter recess. However, Coalition sources insisted last night this did not mean it was planning to hold a number of byelections on the same day as the local and European elections.
Two byelections are pending: one in Dublin West following the resignation of former Independent TD Patrick Nulty and another in Longford-Westmeath following the death of Fine Gael TD Nicky McFadden.
The Dáil will rise for its Easter break on Thursday, April 17th. It was due to return on May 6th but the Government has cut the Easter break short by a week, with TDs now returning on Wednesday, April 30th.
There was speculation in Leinster House the change was made to allow the Government to move the writ for the two pending by
elections to be held on the same day as the local and European elections, May 23rd. A byelection has to be held within 18 to 25 days, excluding Sundays and public holidays, of a writ being moved in the Dáil. However, senior sources in Labour and Fine Gael said it was more likely the two byelections would be held later in the year.
It is likely there will be more Dáil vacancies following the European elections, with Fine Gael TD Brian Hayes tipped to become an MEP for Dublin. Minister for the Environment Phil Hogan is also expected to be appointed Ireland's next EU Commissioner, which would create a Dáil vacancy in his Carlow-Kilkenny constituency.
However, sources in both Coalition partners said it was likely that only the local and European elections would take place on May 23rd.