Saturday 24 August 2019

FF party activist's challenge to gender quota laws to be heard in January

Brian Mohan
Brian Mohan

A challenge by a Fianna Fail party activist to the constitutionality of new electoral laws on gender quotas will be heard at the High Court early next year.

Mr Justice Paul Gilligan said, because a general election is pending, he was satisfied the challenge by Brian Mohan is urgent and he would fix January 19th for the hearing.

Mr Mohan, an area representative for Fianna Fail in Dublin central,  had hoped to be selected to run for the party in that  constituency. However, a directive from the party's national constituency commission instructing that only one woman candidate could be selected in that constituency stymied his ambition.

Mr Mohan’s argument is not with his party but rather is with the State over the introduction of laws making the funding of political parties conditional on their running 30 per cent of female candidates in elections, his counsel Michael McDowell SC told the High Court on Monday.

Mr Mohan had presented for selection at the Dublin Central convention last October but was told, unless he was a woman, he was disqualified from standing for selection, counsel said. 

Mary Fitzgerald has been selected to contest the election for Fianna Fail in Dublin Central, the court heard.

Mr McDowell said his client was contending the gender quota legislation is  unconstitutional and is having a “serious effect” on him.

The challenge concerns the Elecoral (Political Funding) Act, which was passed in 2012. It provides that political parties will lose half of their central exchequer funding unless 30 per cent of their candidates in the general alection are female. All of the parties have said they will meet the gender quota.

The challenge is brought against Ireland and the Attorney General, represented by Maurice Collins SC, who said his side did not agree matter was so urgent it required to be decided in advance of the general election.

The defendants would be raising an issue whether Mr Mohan has the necessary legal standing to bring the case, counsel indicated. It seemed Mr Mohan’s dispute was with Fianna Fail, not the State, as his complaint arose from a directive issued by the party, counsel said.

The legislation in question relates to the funding of political parties and no political party had made a complaint about it, counsel said. It was unclear what benefit Mr Mohan would derive if, as a result of the action, the selected candidate is removed, he added.

In reply to Mr Collins, Mr McDowell said the Fianna Fail general secretary had written to members saying the party is bound by the gender quota laws.

The traditional regime where political parties left the decision on selection of candidates to local members had effectively been abrogated by that legislation, counsel said. His side were hoping for a hearing before the end of this law term on December 21st.

Mr Justice Gilligan agreed with Mr McDowell the matter was urgent but also agreed with Mr Collins that a January hearing date was more practical. He made directions for the exchange of legal documents between the sides and fixed January 19th as the hearing date.

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