Man challenging abortion referendum result to seek electoral registers in High Court

Man challenging abortion referendum result to seek electoral registers in High Court

By Ann O'Loughlin

A man seeking leave to challenge the result of last month’s abortion referendum will formally apply this week for court orders requiring the State to provide him with the original and supplemental electoral registers of voters, including the dates of birth of voters.

Charles Byrne, of College Rise, Drogheda, Co Louth, also wants marked registers of all those who voted on May 25 so the material can be analysed by a public administration expert, his counsel Kenneth Fogarty SC said

The State had told lawyers for Mr Byrne it has concerns about disclosing the information because of the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) concerns, the president of the High Court, Mr Justice Peter Kelly, was told.

Mr Fogarty said their position is the request falls within an exemption to the regulation.

Non-disclosure agreements could also be signed, he added.

The information is necessary so their expert can analyse the relevant data in relation to Mr Byrne’s concerns about the conduct of the vote, including whether a number of student voters at NUI Galway were properly registered to vote, he said.

His side are making significant allegations which would cause concern and "shake the confidence" of citizens in the referendum result.

This was not a “Yes/No situation”, it was about scrutiny of a process and the concern was about ensuring the integrity of the voting process, counsel said.

His side had been told by a garda of concerns about deficiencies in information provided by people registering to vote, he added.

Mr Fogarty said 3.37 million people is the total electorate identified and, since 2016, more than 500,000 people were on a register which they were not entitled to be on.

It is clearly the case "apparently respectable" people indicated they themselves had got more than one card to vote, he said. His side hoped the State could arrange to have the registers scanned into an electronic format as it was necessary for his expert to see unredacted registers.

Frank Callanan SC, for the State, said it is very concerned, notwithstanding Mr Byrne's discovery application, that the applications for leave to bring petitions are heard as scheduled on June 26.

A petition can only be brought if the court considers the applicant has provided prima facie evidence the issues being complained about materially affected the referendum result.

As well as the registers, Mr Byrne sought to rely on revelations from Newstalk radio that the electoral register was over inflated by about 500,000 people and it was "very difficult" for his side to deal with such an "anecdotal" case.

The electoral registers are in the possession of local authorities but the State will issue a forma response to the discovery request in time for the hearing of that this week, he said.

Mr Byrne has until Wednesday to provide specific allegations concerning the conduct of the electoral process, he added.

Mr Justice Kelly said, despite correspondence between the State and Mr Byrne's side, it seemed clear the discovery issue could not be resolved so Mr Bryne could bring a formal application for discovery.

This was all in the context of seeking permission to bring a petition and certain criteria had to be met for that, he said.

That discovery motion will be heard this week, prior to next week's hearing of Mr Byrne's application for leave to bring a petition.

A second application for leave to bring a petition will also be dealt with next week. It is brought by Joanna Jordan, a homemaker, of Upper Glenageary Road, Dun Laoghaire.

A third application was initiated by Ciaran Tracey, a retired Leitrim public servant village, but Mr Callanan said today his side had received communication from Mr Tracey indicating, for costs reasons, he was not proceeding with his application.

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