Supreme Court case could affect all elections

A local election candidate who disputed a county council result in Kerry is to have his case heard by five judges of the Supreme Court, as a matter of urgency in the first appeal of its kind in the history of the State.

Some of the issues raised by ex-senator Dan Kiely had the potential to affect “all elections”, the Supreme Court indicated after an application on whether it or the new Court of Appeal should hear the matter.

Mr Kiely, now 75 and a New York businessman, lost out by two votes to a Fine Gael candidate after running as an independent in the Listowel area in the May 2014 local elections.

Within days, his legal team, solicitor and Fianna Fáil councillor Paul O’Donoghue along with barrister Liz Murphy, lodged a petition in the circuit court against Kerry County Council which was responsible for the returning officers at the count.

They sought to have the decision overturned.

The action centred on the issue of an estimated 230 spoilt or questionable ballots, and the fact Mr Kiely had not been present when the votes were being considered.

The County Council, along with Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael challenged the action and, after two days, Judge Carroll Moran dismissed the petition.

The matter was taken to the Supreme Court by Mr Kiely.

His barrister, Ms Murphy, sought to have the action held before the Supreme Court, rather than the new Court of Appeal.

The Supreme Court indicated the issue involved was of public interest and was urgent, and should be before the Supreme Court.

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.

“They are net legal questions which are very clearly and succinctly set out in the document filed before this court.”

Mr Justice Clarke also said there was urgency on two fronts: it was important that certainty be brought so Mr Kiely, if he succeeded, could take his seat sitting councillors have certainty.

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