That the Ceann Comhairle direct the Clerk of the Dáil to issue his Writ for the election of a member to fill the vacancy which has occurred in the membership of the present Dáil consequent on the death of Deputy Séamus Brennan, a Member for the constituency of Dublin South.
That the Ceann Comhairle direct the Clerk of the Dáil to issue his Writ for the election of a member to fill the vacancy which has occurred in the membership of the present Dáil consequent on the death of Deputy Tony Gregory, a Member for the constituency of Dublin South.
I wish to share my time with Deputies Shatter and Mitchell.
Deputy Séamus Brennan passed away on 9 July last year, almost one year ago, and Deputy Tony Gregory passed away on 2 January of this year, four months ago. The country will go to the polls on 5 June next. We live in very difficult times and we see politics back at centre stage and political issues being debated in a robust, forthright and very direct manner.
No more than the citizens of any other constituency, the people of Dublin South and Dublin Central are constitutionally entitled to full representation in this House. One need only look at the achievements of the late Deputies Séamus Brennan and Tony Gregory in representing their constituencies and their people to see what can be achieved by individual Deputies.
Article 16.4.7 of Bunreacht na hÉireann outlines the process by which vacancies in the House may be filled. In an era of restricted public expenditure, it would be ludicrous not to hold these by-elections on 5 June when both constituencies will go to the polls. The Ceann Comhairle has outlined his clarification in respect of the repeat ruling. The procedure that follows a Dáil motion is that the Clerk of the Dáil, if the motion is passed, informs the returning officer in the relevant constituency or constituencies. Under electoral law, the returning officer must apply that law, unless it is amended, to hold the by-election or by-elections not less than 18 days and not more than 25 days following his or her being in receipt of the writ having been sent by the Clerk of the Dáil. That would exclude Sundays and bank holidays which, according to electoral law, could leave the by-election on 19 May or 26 May. That could be amended to 5 June with the consent of the House.
The ruling in 1964 to which the Ceann Comhairle referred was again endorsed in 1981 when the late John Wilson attempted to move a by-election writ during the time of the hunger strikers and following the decision of the Dáil on 3 February this year.
The Dáil is entitled to pass a motion directing the Ceann Comhairle to instruct the Clerk of the Dáil to issue a writ to fill any casual vacancy which may or may not occur. Standing Order 55(2)(c) states, “a motion directing the Ceann Comhairle to direct the Clerk of the Dáil to issue his or her Writ for the election of a Member to fill any vacancy that may occur from time to time”. If the House votes down these writs and the Ceann Comhairle decides they cannot be moved again for ten weeks or a two and a half month period, the Government and the Dáil are entitled to set aside the Standing Order and the decision of the Ceann Comhairle and his predecessors in this matter and issue a motion directing the Ceann Comhairle to instruct the Clerk of the Dáil to issue the writ to the returning officer for the constituency or constituencies referred to.
This is a test of courage for the Government. The Opposition parties cannot remove the numbers from the seats opposite because they are welded together. This is a case of their way or no way. The people have not had the chance to voice their opinion, in an Oireachtas sense, on this Government. They will have an opportunity to vote in the local and European elections, which the Government cannot prevent. It will suffer the consequences. However, in the case of the by-elections to fill the seats of the late Séamus Brennan and Tony Gregory, it is the filling of Oireachtas vacancies where the people of Dublin South and Dublin Central can have an opportunity to vent their opinion on the way this Government has handled and mishandled their affairs.
From that perspective, I would like the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government or the Chief Whip to confirm that these two by-elections will be held on 5 June. Let the people have their say, voice their opinion and pass judgment on a Government which has been already convicted.