Wednesday 14 November 2018

Three separate applications initiated to challenge results of the abortion referendum

Members of the public celebrate at Dublin Castle after the results of the referendum on the 8th Amendment Photo: Niall Carson/PA Wire
Members of the public celebrate at Dublin Castle after the results of the referendum on the 8th Amendment Photo: Niall Carson/PA Wire

Tim Healy

Three separate applications have been initiated seeking permission to bring petitions challenging the result of the referendum to repeal the Eighth Amendment.

All three have been adjourned to Monday when they will come before the president of the High Court, Mr Justice Peter Kelly.

One of the petitions is by a Dublin woman, Joanna Jordan, who previously failed in her petition seeking to overturn the result of the 2012 Children's Referendum. 

The second is by Charles Byrne, a musician and piano teacher from Drogheda and the third is by Ciaran Tracey, a retired public servant from Leitrim village.

Ms Jordan, St Kevin’s Villas, Glenageary Road Upper, Dun Laoghaire, is representing herself and has made various claims, including that large numbers of potential no voters being unable to vote due to “de-registering”. She also claims an unexplained “swing” towards the Yes side.

Mr Byrne, represented by Cormac o Ceallaigh solicitor, has made a range of claims concerning the Referendum Commission’s information campaign and booklet, including that those failed to convey the nature, breadth and legal effect of the proposal being voted upon. 

He also claims “misstatements” were publicly made by the Taoiseach and Minister for Health during the referendum campaign.

In his case, Mr Tracey also challenges the Referendum Commission’s information campaign and booklet and says that included a “serious” omission in not referring to a decision of the European Court of Human Rights in the case of D v Ireland concerning the circumstances surrounding abortion in Ireland for fatal foetal abnormalities. 

That omission was sufficiently serious to have had a material effect on the outcome of the referendum, he claims.

Mr Tracey claims the natural sincere sympathies of Irish people for women experiencing such pregnancies were “played upon” by politicians advocating a Yes vote.

Health Minister Simon Harris speaking to the media at a Together for Yes billboard launch in Dublin, ahead of the referendum. Photo: Niall Carson/PA Wire
Health Minister Simon Harris speaking to the media at a Together for Yes billboard launch in Dublin, ahead of the referendum. Photo: Niall Carson/PA Wire

Under the Referendum Act, applications to bring petitions seeking leave to challenge the result of a referendum must be presented seven days after the official result is published in Irish Oifiguil.

That notice was published on Tuesday May 29 and Ms Jordan and Mr Byrne moved their intended petitions at the High Court on Monday.

Mr Justice Michael White, who was the duty High Court judge on the bank holiday, granted both applicants leave to prepare a petition and to serve a notice of motion.

He also directed the matter would return next Monday before Mr Justice Kelly.

On Tuesday, Mr Treacy, representing himself, said he wanted permission to challenge the referendum result via a petition and outlined the basis for that.

Mr Justice Kelly said he would adjourn the application to Monday so notice could be given to the relevant parties.

In her proceedings, Ms Jordan claims “evidence is coming in of large numbers of potential no voters who were unable to vote due to de-registering” and those included convents of nuns and residents of nursing homes.

She also claims “thousands of young Irish citizens who were paid to return to vote” were not questioned at polling stations about their time of residency abroad.

She also claims the tally of the number of votes cast per polling box was “not always given” when requested by the No side at the close of voting on May 25.

Mr Byrne claims various public statements by the Taoiseach and other government members to the effect the Eighth amendment endangered women’s lives misled any voter who heard them and must also have undermined the credibility of No campaigners making contrary assertions.

Mr Tracey told the court on Tuesday the scope of the change to be effected by repeal of the Eighth amendment was not sufficiently addressed by the Referendum Commission.

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