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Senator Paudie Coffey is to lodge a High Court action over the government's votes against moving the writ for the Waterford by-election. Julien Behal/PA Archive

FG to lodge court appeals over Waterford and Dublin South by-elections

Fine Gael launch legal action after the government blocked the writs for by-elections in two Dáil constituencies.

FINE GAEL has announced it will seek High Court action over the government’s votes earlier today to block the holding of by-elections in two constituencies where there are vacant seats in the Dáil.

Senator Paudie Coffey, who is Fine Gael’s designated candidate for the by-election whenever it takes place, gave the government formal notice this afternoon of his intention to bring proceedings, while the party’s Dublin South chairman Michael van Turnhout will lodge similar proceedings in his own constituency.

Both cases refer to the High Court decision regarding the case taken by Sinn Féin’s Pearse Doherty, in which the High Court ruled that the government had caused an “unreasonable delay” in filling the Dáil vacancies.

In two near-identical letters written to the government solicitor, Coffey and van Turnhout argue that “the Government, Dáil Éireann and/or its members voting in favour of the Government is perpetrating a continuing constitutional wrong in its failure to move the writ”.

They would therefore be applying therefore for an “Order of Mandamus compelling the Government, the cabinet, Dáil Éireann and/or its membsr currently blocking the moving of the writ to act in accordance with law and move the writ for the by-election in the Waterford Constituency forthwith.”

Both parties said they would be asking the courtfor the earliest hearing date possible, and that they would also be seeking the costs of their actions.

A party spokesperson told that legal action would not be launched over the Donegal North-East vacancy, as it had only been vacant since Jim McDaid’s resignation on Wednesday, meaning there had not been such an inappropriate delay in filling that seat.

‘Dishonouring the constitution’

In a statement released this lunchtime, Coffey said he would ask the court to treat the Government’s vote “as a refusal to remedy the continuing constitutional wrong arising out of the failure to hold the Waterford by-election.

Today, the Government voted against the writ in the wake of the Doherty Judgement which trenchantly criticised the Government for dishonouring the spirit of the Constitution by their continued frustration of the democratic process.

“They are motivated only by their determination to evade the electorate and their actions have forced me to bring these proceedings.

Coffey also called on the Government to seek a speedy Supreme Court hearing if it was still appealing the Doherty ruling, though condemned its decision to do so at all.

The Government is trying to misuse the courts at taxpayers’ expense and make what can only be described as a frivolous, vexatious and unnecessary application to the Supreme Court… to travel that route is to waste taxpayers’ money out of pure political cowardice.

Coffey’s statement was issued just minutes after the Dáil had voted against Fine Gael’s motion to move the writ by 76 votes to 72. The government voted against the by-election in Dublin South by 76 votes to 70.

The Waterford Dáil seat has been vacant since the retirement of former minister Martin Cullen on March 23 of this year, while the Dublin South seat has been vacant since Fine Gael’s own George Lee resigned on February 8.

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