Sunday 22 April 2018

Sligo-Leitrim FG delegates would have learned shortly before voting of selection rule, High Court hears

John Perry. Photo: Courtpix
John Perry. Photo: Courtpix

Tim Healy

DELEGATES at the Sligo-Leitrim Fine Gael selection convention last October would only have learned shortly before they voted that there was a rule that only one person from each county could be selected, the High Court heard.

Ronan Murphy, a barrister and expert in proportional representation, said this situation would have been "quite demanding" on those voters who turned up at the convention in Drumshanbo.

Under cross-examination today, Mr Murphy said it seemed no one except the returning officer at the convention knew beforehand about the sub-panel rule guaranteeing one candidate from each county.  It was only announced at the beginning of the meeting and after the registration of voters, he said.

That would have an impact on the Seanad system of voting which was applied at this convention, he said.

Mr Murphy is giving evidence on the third day of FG Deputy John Perry's action against the trustees of FG seeking that the result of the October 16  convention, at which he failed to be selected, be set aside.  He clams  it was fundamentally flawed, unlawful and involved serious irregularities.

The court has heard that had it not been for the irregularities in voting, one fo the two winning candidates, Gerry Reynolds, would have been elected and Mr Perry would have been left in the race and not eliminated.

This is because of the sub-panel requirement of one candidate for Sligo and the other for Leitrim.  There were only two nominations to be made.

As Reynolds and the third placed candidate Michael Comiskey were both from Leitrim, it meant Comiskey would have been eliminated once Reynolds reached the quota on the first count.

Mr Perry said he had a pact with Mr Comiskey that he would get his (Comiskeys) second preferences.  Therefore, on Reynolds reaching the quota, Perry would stay in the race and receive most of the Comiskey preferences.

Mr Murphy, who was called by the Perry side, told the court the sole purpose of the Seanad system of voting is to remove randomness and provide almost complete accuracy down to one-thousandth of a vote in transfers.

This was a convention with an extra intensity given that the sub-panel system in this case would have to lead to the de-selection of one of the two sitting TDs (Perry or Tony McLoughlin who are both from Sligo), Mr Murphy said.

The argument that the way it was run on the night was "good enough" had to be looked at given what was at stake on the night, Mr Murphy said.

The case continues

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