Judge to adjudicate on disputed votes in Tralee

The first count afresh in the history of the State has been suspended to allow representatives of candidates in the May 2014 Listowel Municipal District election seek the adjudication of a Circuit Court judge.
Judge to adjudicate on disputed votes in Tralee

The count got under way at the John Mitchels GAA stadium, the original venue, in Tralee early yesterday, after a Supreme Court ruling and a Circuit Court order after a legal challenge against Kerry County Council.

Around 15,000 papers have been re-mixed and sorted and over 300 doubtful ballots identified.

Scrutiny of these by candidates and their agents including legal counsel began after lunch.

However, at least 30 of the doubtful ballots are being disputed and Circuit Court Judge Thomas E O’Donnell is being asked to adjudicate on these.

In addition, up to 10 votes have been found to begin with sequences other than the number one and these have been removed from the count, after the Supreme Court ruling which found against Kerry County Council and in favour of defeated candidate, Dan Kiely, a former Fianna Fáil senator who lost out on a seat by two votes.

Mr Kiely had run as an independent candidate in the seven-seater.

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Votes with sequences beginning with number 2 or number 3 were often found where there were two elections on the same day, and a practice had developed where these were accepted by returning officers.

The Supreme Court ruled with Mr Kiely and his legal team, who included solicitor Paul O’Donoghue, a former Fianna Fáil councillor and the barrister Elizabeth Murphy and senior counsel Michael McDowell, the former justice minister, that his was a mistake and they should not have been allowed into the 2014 count.

Kerry County Council is facing a six-figure sum in legal costs.

Fine Gael councillor Mike Kennelly, brother of the late Kerry footballer Tim Kennelly, was two votes ahead of Mr Kiely when elected in 2014. Fianna Fáil councillor Jimmy Moloney, current mayor of Listowel, was just five votes ahead of Mr Kiely.

However, given that a complete remix of the votes is taking place — which means new bundles are being created and the transfers taken from bundles will vary, these candidates may not be at most risk of losing out. Other changes may also be on the cards, it is felt.

A defeated Labour candidate, former mayor of Kerry Pat Leahy, could well be in the mix for a seat as could defeated Fine Gael councillor Tim Buckley.

Senior political figures from across the political divide gathered at the sports centre in Tralee where the count afresh began early yesterday morning.

They included Seán Sherwin, former national organiser for Fianna Fáil, and Senator Maurice Cummins, Fine Gael leader of the Seanad, and Jim McMahon, Fine Gael Munster regional organiser. Fine Gael senators Tom Sheahan and Paul Coghlan were also at the centre as was Fianna Fáil senator Mark Daly.

The new count was ordered last month by Judge Thomas E O’Donnell at the Circuit Civil Court in Tralee following the Supreme Court Decision in December.

Judge O’ Donnell was sitting in Limerick and was on hand to adjudicate on any disputed votes.

Each of the original 15 candidates had been allowed seven passes for scrutineers and others. Fine Gael, Labour, and Fianna Fáil all had legal counsel on hand and Mr Kiely was represented by the barrister Rosemary Healy-Rae, sister of the TD Michael Healy-Rae, who was also at the venue. The county solicitor Rosemary Cronin was also present.

Arrangements were being made last night by council returning officer Charlie O’Sullivan to go to the Circuit Court in Limerick with the disputed papers either late last night or this morning. The first count cannot go ahead until there is agreement on the disputed ballots.

For more election news, analysis and general banter join us HERE

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