The Government has moved the writs for the two byelections in Dublin West and Longford-Westmeath to take place on May 23rd, the same date as the local and European elections.
The Dublin West byelection follows the resignation of Independent and former Labour party TD Patrick Nulty in a controversy about messages sent through social media to constituents.
The Longford-Westmeath by-election follows the death of Fine Gael TD Nicky McFadden, who died last month, having suffered with motor neuron disease. Sympathy was also expressed by all parties to Mr Nulty on the recent death of his father.
Moving the Dublin West byelection writ, Tánaiste Eamon Gilmore said the
No matter which way one looks at it this country is in a better position than it was three years ago. “Three years ago this country was broke,” he said.
Now “we’re out of the bailout and 70,000 more people at work today than when this Government took office three years ago. There are 2,700 more classrooms in existence today than there were three years ago.”
He said that in the election the choice people had to face was “Do they hand the keys of the car back to the party that crashed the car in the first place or do they hand the keys of the car to parties and to political forces that don’t know how to drive in the first place?”
Government Chief Whip Paul Kehoe, who moved the writ for the Longford-Westmeath byelection paid tribute to Ms McFadden and the work she had done as a councillor, Senator and TD and a "committed member of the Fine Gael party". He said she saw the person first and their politics second, "not always an easy thing to do for some of us in here".
Fianna Fáil whip Seán Ó Feargháil acknowledged that the writs were being moved in "very difficult circumstances". He said their candidates Aengus O'Rourke in Longford-Westmeath and David McGuinness in Dublin West would set out credible alternatives to the direction set by the current Government.
He said Fine Gael and the Labour Party enjoy the largest majority in the history of the State. “I don’t believe that they need more backbenchers to add to that dominance but that is up to the people of both communities.” He said unemployment had stabilised but the national rate was about 11.8 per cent.
Sinn Féin’s Peadar Tóibín said the real unemployment rate was 22.7 per cent, when the Government’s “labour activation” projects were excluded. He added that 250,000 people had emigrated and this showed the Government’s “miniscule response” to dealing with joblessness.
Socialist Party TD Joe Higgins said the Anti-Austerity Alliance was standing 40 people in the local elections. The people of Dublin West, Dublin and Ireland "make all the elections on May 23rd a crucial referendum against the water tax and against the cost of living squeeze by voting for outstanding fighters".
He said they included the party’s candidate in Dublin West Cllr Ruth Coppinger, MEP Paul Murphy in the European elections and the Anti-Austerity Alliance candidates around the country and “other genuine organisations and individuals”.
Independent TD Stephen Donnelly who also praised Ms McFadden and extended his sympathies to her family and to Mr Nulty and his family. He said Dublin West independent candidate David Hall had a "proven track record in fighting for the Irish people". He is co-founder of the Irish Mortgage Holders Organisation and was "helping families every day to find solutions to unsustainable debts and he and his colleagues now have over 1,000 cases to go to the insolvency service in Ireland".