FF activist who objected to gender quota rule for political funding ordered to pay legal costs

Brian Mohan

Fianna Fáil activist Brian Mohan is facing a substantial legal costs bill over his failed challenge to the constitutionality of a law linking State funding of political parties to meeting gender quota targets when selecting general election candidates, writes Ann O'Loughlin.

The three-judge Court of Appeal ruled today that Mr Mohan must pay the costs of his unsuccessful appeal against a High Court finding he lacked the necessary legal standing to bring the case.

The High Court previously ordered Mr Mohan must pay the costs of his case there.

Today, Michael McDowell SC, for Mr Mohan, argued his client should get some or all of his appeal costs in circumstances where he was a young student of politics when he took the case and had a genuine interest as to whether the relevant law was constitutional. The case raised issues of general public importance, he argued.

Maurice Collins SC, for the State parties, said there was no basis for departing from the normal rule costs go to the winning party. Both the High Court and Court of Appeal had applied well-established law on standing in finding Mr Mohan was not entitled to bring the case, he said.

The President of the Appeal Court Mr Justice Sean Ryan, said Mr Mohan's case had not left "first base" as he had not established he had standing to bring it.

Sitting with Ms Justice Mary Finlay Geoghegan and Mr Justice Michael Peart, the judge said the court would order Mr Mohan to pay the costs of the appeal. He granted Mr McDowell's application for a 28-day stay on that order to allow consideration of seeking to appeal to the Supreme Court.

Last month, the appeal court held Mr Mohan's constitutional challenge was a "derivative claim" that only exists by and through the party of which he is a member.

That party gets State funding and is directly affected by the relevant law but it had not alone challenged the law, it supported it, Mr Justice Ryan said. Membership of a political party is not sufficient to give standing to a person to challenge this law, he ruled.

The case arose from the Electoral (Political Funding) Act 2012 which halves State funding to parties who fail to ensure at least 30% of their general election candidates are women and 30% are men. That percentage is intended to rise to 40% after seven years. Women comprise about 22% of the current Dail.

Mr Mohan took the proceedings after FF headquarters issued a direction in September 2015 to a Dublin Central general election selection convention the sole candidate selected must be female.

The direction was issued in a context where, by summer 2015, there were 10 women among 47 FF candidates chosen in 31 constituencies. Mary Fitzpatrick was selected for Dublin Central.

Mr Mohan claimed it would be impossible for Fianna Fail to function if its State funding of some €1.16m was halved and that the 2012 law directly affected him at the convention and still does.

- Irish Examiner

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