Water protester fined over election legislation breach

Water charges protester Diarmaid Ó Cadhla, of The People’s Convention, was convicted and fined €300 at Cork District Court yesterday for failing to file a document related to electoral donations with the Standards in Public Office Commission after the 2011 general election.

Water protester fined over election legislation breach

Ó Cadhla, aged 53, of 8, Upper Beaumont Drive, Ballintemple, Cork, said he would not be paying the fine.

Judge Olann Kelleher imposed the fine with three months to pay, or five days in prison in default.

After Judge Kelleher convicted Ó Cadhla, state solicitor Frank Nyhan, who prosecuted, said the Electoral Act of 1997 as amended provided for a maximum fine of €1,000. The accused said: “With respect to the court, I will be declining to pay a fine.”

Jacqueline Moore, officer of the Standards in Public Office Commission, said as an unsuccessful candidate in the 2011 general election, Ó Cadhla was required to file a statement within 56 days of the election stating whether he received a donation exceeding €634.87. No such statement was filed, Ms Moore said.

The defendant said: “I accept what she says.”

Garda Seán Murphy said that when he went to serve documents on the accused he requested they be served in Irish. Garda Murphy returned with the documents in Irish, which were accepted. The defendant told him later he would not be filling out the document and would not be returning them to the commission.

Judge Kelleher told the defendant he could have a judge who would deal with his case through Irish, but he replied he was happy to proceed in English.

Judge Kelleher said: “I am not listening to a political speech about whether the act should be there or not.”

The defendant said he was being discriminated against and his constitutional rights infringed. “This electoral act discriminates against me because it favours people who are part of private clubs,” he said, and urged the judge to refer the matter by way of case stated to the High Court.

Judge Kelleher said he would not do so.

“I think it is a very important [equality] issue when one candidate has more rights than another candidate… I am not sure whether to plead guilty or not guilty. My constitutional rights are denied due to discrimination,” he said.

Judge Kelleher told the defendant he could take a case stated to the high court or appeal the conviction and fine to the circuit court.

“I think you are disregarding Bunreacht na hÉireann,” Ó Cadhla said. Judge Kelleher said: “That is my decision; you can appeal it.”

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