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File photo. Sam Boal/

Tipperary may not go to the polls until 28 or 29 February 'at the earliest'

Returning officer James Seymour made the remarks this morning following the death of independent candidate Marese Skehan.

THE RETURNING OFFICER for Tipperary has said that the electorate there may not go to the polls until 28 or 29 February at the earliest following the sudden death of one of the candidates in the constituency. 

Speaking to RTÉ’s Morning Ireland, James Seymour said he expected to receive notice from the Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government later today to confirm a new date. 

He also said that any legal challenge to the new date is a matter for the minister.

Independent candidate Marese Skehan was found dead at her home in Thurles yesterday, but no details of her passing have been released at this time.

Legislation states that if a candidate in any constituency dies after the final day for nominations, “the returning officer shall forthwith notify the Minister and the Clerk of the Dáil of the death of the candidate and at the same time, if notice of the poll has been given, he shall countermand the poll”.

In such a scenario, a fresh election must be held in the constituency where the candidate has died.

Seymour said this morning that he had notified the minister and the Clerk of the Dáil of Skehan’s death.

“The minister will issue me with a new date for the polling,” he said. “There will be a new date as quickly as possible.”

He said that if notice is received this morning from the minister for the new date, the ballot for nominations would re-open tomorrow and close at midday on Wednesday 12 February.

After that, issues around postal votes and other matters would need to be arranged.

“The earliest date I would anticipate [for the public to vote] is 28 or 29 February,” the returning officer said while stressing it was for the minister to set the date. 

Seymour added that the last time such a situation occurred was in 1948 when the Carlow-Kilkenny vote was postponed after Fine Gael TD Eamon Coogan – father of Tim Pat – died on the campaign trail. 

With reporting from Stephen McDermott

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