Monday 23 April 2018

Challenge to same-sex marriage referendum result 'not anti-gay issue', court hears

Judge's gavel.
Judge's gavel.

Tim Healy

A man seeking leave to challenge the same sex marriage referendum result has told the High Court this “is not an anti-gay issue” but about a failure to adhere to fair procedures in the referendum process.

Gerry Walshe, Lisdeen, Co Clare, said he believed monies for Yes posters of the Fine Gael and Labour government parties had come from the central fund.

It was “obvious” monies were used to promote a Yes vote in breach of the McKenna principles prohibiting the use of public monies to advocate for one side in a referendum, he argued.

He also argued the State had failed to deliver the proposed amendment bill to post offices around the country prior to the May 22nd referendum.

When Mr Justice Nicholas Kearns said there was no obligation to deliver the bill to post offices, Mr Walshe said he was not aware of that and had been unable to access the internet to research that point as there were difficulties with internet access in Co Clare.

Mr Walshe, an electrician, and Maurice J. Lyons, a gardener, with an address in Callan, Co Kilkenny, are both seeking leave of the court to bring separate petitions challenging the Yes vote in last month’s referendum.

Under the 1994 Referendum Act 1994, a person seeking leave to bring a petition is required to show grounds supporting claims the referendum was materially affected by some interference,  act or conduct in breach of the 1994 Act.

The State, represented by Richard Humphreys SC, is opposing the applications and has argued the applicants have established no grounds on which leave to bring a petition can be granted. Brian Murray SC is representing the Referendum Commission.

The court heard the State is concerned to have the challenges speedily decided on grounds including that there may be same sex couples who are anxious to get married soon because one of them is seriously ill.

In his arguments today, Mr Walshe said the respondents failed to act impartially in the referendum process and had denied the Irish people an impartial referendum. He had noted that in Co Clare there were seven to ten times more Yes posters than No posters, he added.

He also argued that certain identification features on polling cards should have been removed.

The judge will hear arguments from Mr Lyons concerning his separate application later this afternoon.

Both men had earlier sought to have their applications adjourned to a later date to allow them consider the submissions and affidavits from the State. The judge refused the adjournment on grounds including both men had been given time to read the documents and because the matter was urgent.

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