Michael McDowell heading legal team to challenge gender quota system
Former Justice Minister Michael McDowell is heading the legal team which is challenging the imposition of gender quotas on political parties.
A challenge to the constitutionality of the gender quota system has been launched by Fianna Fail activist Brian Mohan, who contested the last local elections as an unsuccessful Fianna Fail candidate for Dublin City Council.
Gender quotas have been the cause of friction at selection conventions for the 2016 election, particularly among Fine Gael and Fianna Fail. Under the legislation, a registered political party which does not have 30pc or more female candidates will lose 50pc of its state funding after the next general election. The quota rises to 40pc of candidates at a subsequent election.
Papers launching a challenge by Mr Mohan to the legislation were lodged with the Chief State Solicitor's Office late last week. He is being represented by Michael McDowell, Michael Ronayne, a former government adviser to Sile de Valera, and solicitors Fahy Banbury McGeever, whose partners include Jenny McGeever, a former journalist sacked by the RTE Authority for breaching Section 31 of the Broadcasting Act during an interview with Sinn Fein's Martin McGuiness in 1988.
Gender quotas for registered political parties became a legal requirement for receiving state funding under Section 42 of the Electoral Amendment (Political Funding) Act of 2012.
Confirming that he had launched the legal proceedings against the State, Mr Mohan said: "My case is against Ireland and the Attorney General." He stressed that although he is a member of the party "these proceedings do not in any way involve Fianna Fail or any other political party." The proceedings seek a declaration that Section 42 of the Electoral (Amendment) (Political Funding) Act 2012 is invalid having regard to the provisions of the Constitution.
"The Constitution prohibits the enactment of any law regulating the freedom of association on grounds that amount to political discrimination," he added. "The penalisation of associations which are political parties on the basis of a failure to field candidates by reference to politically pre-determined quotas such as gender quotas. . . is a purely 'political discrimination' which is prohibited by the Constitution."