Former Tánaiste and senior counsel Michael McDowell is to represent a Kerry County Council candidate who is challenging the results of the last local elections in a case which has the potential to affect all future elections, it has been confirmed.
Dan Kiely — a former Fianna Fáil senator and an independent candidate who is disputing the result of the Listowel area local elections to Kerry County Council — is to have his case heard by five judges of the Supreme Court as a matter of urgency in the first such appeal in the history of the State, it was decided earlier this summer.
At least some of the issues raised had the potential to affect “all elections”, the Supreme Court found after after being asked by Mr Kiely’s legal team, barrister Liz Murphy and solicitor Paul O’Donoghue, a former Fianna Fáil councillor, whether the appeal should be heard in the Supreme Court or the new Court of Appeal.
It was yesterday confirmed that Mr McDowell has been briefed by Mr Kiely’s team.
Mr Kiely, a former Fianna Fáil senator and New York businessman, lost out by two votes to a Fine Gael candidate after running as an independent in the Listowel area in May 2014.
Within days, Mr Kiely’s legal team lodged a petition against Kerry County Council which is responsible for the returning officers at the circuit court in Tralee, seeking a recount of votes.
That action centred on the issue of an estimated 230 spoilt or questionable ballots, and the fact Mr Kiely was not present when those votes were being considered.
Issues surrounding the acceptance of ballots where no first preference was expressed were aired, as was the lack of statutory guidelines for returning officers who it emerged relied on a handbook.
The hearing in Tralee took two days and was hotly contested by the council, as well as by both Fianna Fáil which engaged a senior counsel and junior counsel, and Fine Gael which engaged a junior counsel.
Judge Carroll Moran dismissed the petition and the matter then was taken to the Supreme Court by Mr Kiely and papers lodged.
Mr Kiely’s barrister, Ms Murphy, asked the action be before the Supreme Court, rather than the new Court of Appeal.
The issue was of public interest and was urgent, and should be before the Supreme Court, it was decided.
In its ruling, Mr Justice Clarke — one of three judges in the matter, along with Mr Justice Charleton and Mr Justice McMenamin — said that at least some of the legal issues raised had the potential to affect all local elections.
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