Lawyers for ICA appeal to be allowed to fill vacant positions despite action brought by barrister

Ann O'Loughlin

Lawyers representing the Irish Countrywomen's Association have urged the High Court not to grant orders preventing it from filling various positions on its national executive.

Patricia Madden who joined the ICA 39 years ago has brought proceedings against the organisation over the conduct of elections for the ICA's national executive.

Patricia Madden

The ICA's lawyers say that her action should be dismissed, and say it has put a set of proposals its says would allow its members decided on the issues raised by Ms Madden.

Ms Madden, a barrister of St Mobhi Road, Glasnevin, Dublin, claims the organisation breached its constitution when it failed to count ballots cast by its membership in advance of its AGM last May.

She claims the ICA should have declared the winners of the election at the AGM for positions on its national executive board including national president, for a term of office from 2018 to 2021

At the opening of the hearing before Ms Justice Úna Ní Raifeartaigh Frank Beatty SC, with Brendan Kirwan BL, for the ICA, said there were problems with the ballot papers for the 2018 elections which his client wants to rectify.

Counsel said the proposals include putting two motions to the members.

The first motion was to ask the members if they want the ballot papers from the election opened and counted.

It that proposal was approved by the members there would be no need for a vote on the second motion.

If that motion was defeated then the members would be asked if they wanted to have fresh elections for the positions in a timely manner.

If both motions were defeated then the matter could return to court.

Counsel said these proposals would allow the ICA move forward, but that for some reason Ms Madden had rejected the proposals.

Mr Beatty was responding to submissions by Ms Madden who said that procedures adopted and the decisions taken by the ICA at its AGM, and at earlier EGM and a meeting of its National Executive were "ultra vires" to its constitution and based on "tainted and flawed" legal advice.

Proposals by the ICA to keep some existing national executive members in place on a caretaker basis until new elections could be conducted were "specifically excluded," she said.

In her action, Ms Madden seeks various injunctions, including restraining the ICA filling any vacancies on its board, until the dispute has been decided.

She has said she brought the action so the votes can be counted and the winners declared.

The ICA has undertaken not to destroy the ballot papers for the 2018 elections.

The hearing continues next week.

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