Would-be candidate Brian Mohan loses case against gender quotas

Fianna Fáil activist Brian Mohan has lost his legal challenge to laws linking the State’s funding of political parties to their meeting specified gender quota targets when selecting candidates for general elections.

Mr Mohan challenged the constitutionality of provisions of the Electoral (Political Funding) Act 2012 which halve the State funding of 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.

Because Mr Justice David Keane found Mr Mohan did not have the required legal standing to bring the case, the issue of the constitutionality of the 2012 law was not addressed.

After the judgement, Michael McDowell SC, for Mr Mohan, indicated his client was likely to appeal both the decision and a costs order against him.

Mr Mohan, a student at DCU and part-time barman, brought the case against the State after Fianna Fáil directed last September its sole general election candidate in the Dublin Central constituency, where Mr Mohan wished to go forward for selection, must be a woman. Mary Fitzpatrick has been selected.

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In his reserved judgement, Mr Justice David Keane ruled Mr Mohan did not have the necessary standing to bring the case as he had failed to prove the alleged constitutionality of the 2012 law adversely affected him personally or posed a real risk of adverse affect to him or to another person for whom he was deemed entitled to speak.

Mr Mohan could not assert his rights to stand as a candidate were affected, the judge found. His “scant” evidence failed to show the 2012 Act mandated the Fianna Fáil directive to the Dublin Central convention as opposed to the party exercising its own discretion on that issue.

It was “particularly striking” that three issues of fact in the case were all issues Fianna Fáil, not Mr Mohan, was best placed to address, he said.

The three issues were: (1) the effect on the party of a 50% cut in its State funding if it fails to meet gender quotas; (2) the extent of the party’s discretion in deciding whether, and how, to implement the gender quota for general election candidates; and (3) the party’s position, aside from the 2012 law, on adoption of gender quotas.

The judge found Mr Mohan had failed to adduce sufficient evidence to prove his claim it would be impossible for Fianna Fáil to function if its State funding of some €1.16m was halved.

There was no evidence whatsoever before the court concerning the minimum level of funding Fianna Fáil requires for general administration and other matters beyond which it would be “impossible” for the party to function, he said.

There was also no evidence concerning the extent to which the party might address any such cut in State funding by, for example, diversifying its donor base.

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