Monday, February 15, 2010

Democratic Deficit

On The Week in Politics last night, Minister Mary Hanifan stated that the byelection for Donegal South West would not be held until "the back end of the year". By this I am assuming she means sometime in October. She then proceeded to justify this further delay on the basis of a possible Mayoral election in Dublin, a possible constitutional amendment on Children's Rights and the need for another byelection in Dublin South.

It has been 8 months already since Pat Gallagher was elected as an MEP and had to vacate his seat in DSW. This is a constituency which with an electorate of 60,829 at the last election and according to the 2007 report of the Constituency Commission had a population of 73,390. With 3 TDs this is right in the middle of the constitutional requirement to have 1 TD for between 20,000 and 30,000 people. However with currently only 2 TDs, Mary Coughlan and Dinny McGinley, the area currently has a TD for every 36,695 inhabitants which is way outside the allowed tolerances. It is a disgrace that the government are allowed to sit on the writ to avoid the embarrassment of FF losing the seat when it is the Táiniste's constituency.

As I wrote a couple of weeks ago, I would propose a change to article 16.7.1 that would put a time limit on filling casual vacancies in the Dáil of three months. This would avoid the current situation where a government can indefinitely postpone a byelection just because it doesn't suit the numbers in the Dáil.

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