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Waterford senator Paudie Coffey, whose High Court appeal over the government's failure to hold a Waterford by-election was deferred today. Julien Behal/PA Archive

High Court defers Fine Gael by-election challenges

The cases taken by Fine Gael over the delays in the Waterford and Dublin South by-elections have both been delayed.

THE HIGH COURT has today put back two cases taken by Fine Gael against the government, over its failure to move the writs for by-elections to fill two of the seats currently vacant in the Dáil.

The cases – which had been lodged by Waterford’s Senator Paudie Coffey, and Dublin South chairman Michael van Turnhout, in the wake of Pearse Doherty’s successful challenge in a similar case in Donegal South-West – were this morning put back, pending the outcome of the Supreme Court appeal of Doherty’s victory.

The President of the High Court, Nicholas Kearns, said the cases would be delayed for an “indeterminate period”, so as to allow the government’s appeal against Doherty’s case to be heard.

The court had ruled, last November, that the government had caused an “unreasonable” delay in holding the by-election to fill the seat in Donegal, which had been vacated by Pat the Cope Gallagher in June 2009.

The Waterford seat, held by former Fianna Fáil minister Martin Cullen, has been vacant since March 10 of last year; the seat in Dublin South, formerly held by George Lee, has been vacant since February.

Speaking following this morning’s proceedings, Coffey said the government would “no longer be able to perpetrate this constitutional wrong” when the general election was held in the coming months.

The government had previously said the Doherty ruling would be appealed so as to clarify the role that the courts could have in overseeing Oireachtas affairs.