FORMER INDEPENDENT MEP Kathy Sinnott has told supporters of a “powerful grassroots effort” to have the High Court overturn the result of last week’s referendum on the constitutional amendment on children.
In an email sent to supporters last night, Sinnott said she and other advocates for a No vote had been “racing to sort out petitioners, legal team, lines of argument, supporting evidence and funding” ahead of yesterday’s deadline to lodge a court order.
Two petitioners were yesterday granted leave by the High Court to challenge the outcome of the referendum, which was passed with a Yes vote of 58 per cent and a surplus of just under 170,000 votes.
The petitioners are Joanna Jordan, a campaigner for a No vote, and Nancy Kennelly – a resident of a Co Limerick nursing home who had voted Yes in a postal ballot before the Supreme Court ruled that the government’s information campaign, which she told the court she had relied upon, was not impartial.
The two have been given one week to lodge a full case.
“During this week, we ask anyone researching, gathering information, developing legal arguments, sending advice etc to keep giong,” Sinnott said, adding that a dedicated account to raise funds for the legal challenge would be established by tomorrow.
“We will be back to all of you that have so wonderfully pledged money with details on how to transfer funds to the account, so we can pay the petition fee and start commissioning the experts,” the email reads.
“The legal team is enthusiastic and the support for the challenge is growing.
“I know many are praying”, Sinnott adds. “Please continue.”
Ireland’s courts have only processed one previous challenge to a referendum result, in 1996 when Desmond Hanafin mounted a challenge to overturn the result of the referendum on permitting divorce which had been passed the previous November.
That referendum campaign saw Ireland narrowly vote to introduce divorce by a mere 9,114 votes, in a vote held a week after the Supreme Court ruled the government had breached the constitution by spending over IR£250,000 of public funds on a campaign to vote Yes.
In Hanafin’s case, however, Justice Hugh O’Flaherty acknowledged that agreeing to aside a referendum result was an “awesome undertaking” – while Chief Justice Liam Hamilton ruled that Hanafin had not conclusively shown that the result was swayed by the government’s actions.