Interesting judgement in Pearse Doherty’s case in the Dublin High Court this morning. Although he stops one step short of confronting the legislature (that’s the Supreme Court’s job) Mr Justice Kearns, High Court President, said:
“I am satisfied that the delay in this case is so inordinate as to amount to a breach of the applicant’s constitutional rights to such a degree as to warrant the court granting some form of relief. Far from the court ’tearing asunder’ the provisions of the Constitution by adjudicating on this application, it is the ongoing failure to move the writ for this by-election since June 2009 which offends the terms and spirit of the Constitution and its framework for democracy.
“The court might, in another case following on from this one, feel constrained to take a more serious view if any Government, not just necessarily the present one, was seen by the courts to be acting in clear disregard of an applicant’s constitutional rights in continually refusing over an unreasonable period of time to move the writ for a by-election.”
With that last point in mind Sinn Fein are expected to move a writ in the Dail tomorrow. So that second case may come sooner rather than later, if the Dail votes it down. Even if they vote it through, it then comes down to when the date for the election is set.
Even if one is run, and lost (FF have not won a byelection since the mdi 90s), the government are still a Jackie Healy-Rae to the good. But given there are two other by-elections pending (not counting the recent vacancy in Donegal NE), unless FF mount a potentially damaging die-in-the-ditch campaign we must be almost assured that the next general election will be in the Spring of next year.
Mick is founding editor of Slugger. He has written papers on the impacts of the Internet on politics and the wider media and is a regular guest and speaking events across Ireland, the UK and Europe. Twitter: @MickFealty