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 election to the European Parliament of Deputy Pat The Cope Gallagher, a member for the constituency of Donegal South-West.
Former Deputy Pat The Cope Gallagher was elected to the European Parliament in June 2009, almost one year ago, and consequently resigned his Dáil seat as required. He was a Government candidate, so the Government was in a position to provide for the eventuality of his election to the European Parliament by planning a by-election within a reasonable timeframe. Almost a year has passed and there is no indication that the Government intends to restore full representation to the people of Donegal South-West. The refusal to hold the by-election is unsurprisingly political — particularly in view of the disastrous nature and massive unpopularity of this Government — and democratically unacceptable.
Sinn Féin last moved the writ for this by-election in July of last year. In the interim, the Government has made no movement to fill the vacancy. Since the seat became vacant, unemployment in Donegal has risen from 19,895 to 21,075 — an increase of 3,180. Some 4,697 young people in Donegal under the age of 25 are out of work. A total of 336 jobs have been lost in the local authority alone since July 2008. The fishing sector is on its knees and there has been a 30% decline in overseas visitors since 1999.
The infrastructure deficit in the constituency is massive: there is no railway link, little access to broadband, local and regional roads are in a state of disrepair, and it is not connected to the national gas grid. Public transport is inadequate at best. Community hospitals are under threat of closure due to the current HSE review on long-term residential care. Schools are in desperate need of both repair and new buildings. This year alone, 78,000 home-help hours have been cut across County Donegal.
Taking these various issues into account, there is a clear indication that, now more than ever, Donegal needs and deserves full representation. The Fianna Fail-Green Party Government has failed the people of Donegal South-West. It has failed to implement a job creation and retention strategy for the county, which is haemorrhaging jobs left, right and centre.
Our system is flawed in that Government can obstruct the process of calling a by-election for selfish political purposes. This should change and a constitutional obligation for a by-election to be held within a set period after a vacancy arises should be put in place. The holding of by-elections should not be determined on the basis of what is politically expedient for the party or parties in office at any given time.
In 1986, Pat The Cope Gallagher, MEP, said it was "morally and democratically wrong" for the then Fine Gael-Labour Government to oppose the holding of a by-election in Donegal South-West. The by-election for Donegal South-West should be called without delay. The Tánaiste and Minister for Education and Science, who represents the constituency in question, was present in the Chamber until this motion was moved but has now left. I call on the Government to set the date for this by-election and to recognise that by-elections must be also held in two other constituencies elsewhere in the jurisdiction. Holding these by-elections is imperative and no other course of action will suffice.