Saturday 20 January 2018

Perry: FG sec gen 'danced with rage' when told sister of rival was seen putting votes into ballot box

John Perry
John Perry

Tim Healy

DEPUTY John Perry told the High Court Fine Gael general secretary Tom Curran "danced with rage" when the TD complained a sister of a rival had been seen putting a number of votes into a ballot box at a selection convention.

The Sligo-Leitrim TD was giving evidence in his legal action against the trustees of FG seeking that the result of the convention, at which he failed to be selected, be set aside because it was fundamentally flawed, unlawful and involved serious irregularities.

FG is opposing the action.

Mr Perry said during the convention in a ballroom in Drumshambo, Co Leitrim, on October 16 last, another party member told him to go into the voting area as he had just seen Ita Reynolds, sister of one of the two winning candidates Gerry Reynolds, putting four votes into a ballot box.

He was met by Mr Curran "who said to me get out, that I was canvassing".

Mr Perry replied he had just been told four votes had been put into the box "and it would be more in his line to check what was going on in the voting area".

At this Mr  Curran "danced with rage on the floor", Mr Perry said.

The court also heard when Mr Perry tried to later raise this and a number of irregularities about the convention within FG, Mr Curran had replied that while it had proceeded "not without a glitch or two", it was reasonably satisfactory.

Mícheál O'Higgins SC, opening Mr Perry's case, said his client had an expectation he would be a candidate in the next general election on the basis of a commitment by the Taoiseach that all sitting FG Deputies would be permitted to stand for the party.

FG denies Enda Kenny made such a commitment, counsel said.

Mr O'Higgins said the Taoiseach gave the commitment at a meeting of FG's parliamentary party in December 2014.

"This gave rise to to the expectation that any sitting TD would be added to the ticket", counsel said.  It had been applied in other constituencies, he said.

FG had also argued Mr Perry had not exhausted all internal remedies for his complaint before he brought court proceedings.

Mr O'Higgins also said there would be evidence that FG headquarters were "not overly keen" on Mr Perry being selected to run.  Certain persons in the FG executive council "did not want him on the ticket", he said.

This had a bearing on a directive issued by HQ as to the electoral strategy that would be adopted by the party in the Sligo-Leitrim constituency.

Mr O'Higgins said the strategy required the convention was to select two candidates, one from the Sligo part of the constituency and the other from the Leitrim end.  Mr Perry and Tony McLoughlin, the other sitting FG TD, are both from Sligo.

The result of the first count at the convention, which had a total valid poll of 686 was: Gerry Reynolds 227; Michael Comiskey 188; Tony McLoughlin 140 and John Perry 130.

On that outcome, Mr Perry was eliminated and his second preferences distributed as Mr Reynolds had not reached the quota.

Mr Perry says had it not been for the irregularities, Mr Reynolds would have reached the quota and been selected.

Mr Perry says he had a pact with Mr Comiskey he would receive his (Comiskey's) second preferences.   As the strategy required one candidate from each side of the constituency, Mr Comiskey would have been eliminated and Mr Perry would have received his preferences, it is claimed.

The result was, following the elimination of Mr Perry, Mr Reynolds and Mr McLoughlin were selected.

After seeking to be added by to the ticket, the FG executive council also later stated there was no mechanism under party rules for setting aside the result.

Earlier, Mr O'Higgins outlined the alleged irregularities which centre on seven votes.

Three of those were cast in the names of people who were not present.

The other four should not have been permitted to vote under a rule that you must be a member of the party for two years before you can vote at a convention.

The convention was disorderly is the sense there was confusion and disorganisation in the registration room and elsewhere.

The case continues.

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