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Challenge to abortion referendum result dismissed by Court of Appeal

The judge said that the challenge was on such flimsy and slender grounds that it amounted to “a frustration of the democratic process in relation to referendums”

Image: SIPA USA/PA Images

THE COURT OF Appeal has dismissed a Dublin woman’s challenge against the abortion referendum result.

Joanna Jordan from Dún Laoghaire, Co Dublin, had appealed last month’s ruling by High Court President Justice Peter Kelly who ruled that neither Jordon met the necessary legal test set by the Referendum Act before a court can permit a petition to be brought.

In a decision handed down this morning by the Court of Appeal comprised of Justice George Birmingham, Justice Mary Irvine, and Justice Gerard Hogan found that Justice Kelly was “entirely correct in refusing leave to Ms Jordan to present the petition.”

Justice Birmingham said the court  “would go even further” that the High Court ruling and held that the presentation by Jordan in these circumstances based as it was on such flimsy and slender grounds amounted to “a frustration of the democratic process in relation to referendums” and “might in other circumstances amount to an abuse of process.”

The court put a stay on its decision pending an appeal to the Supreme Court until Friday of this week. It is understood that Jordan will appeal the court’s decision.

The court also said that Jordan must pay the legal costs incurred by the State for contesting the appeal.

In her appeal Jordan, of Upper Glenageary Road, Dun Laoghaire alleged irregularities in the conduct of the referendum and registration of voters. They also complained about statements made by Taoiseach Leo Varadkar and Minister for Health Simon Harris during the referendum campaign.

Her appeal against the High Court’s decision was opposed by the State. All of her arguments were dismissed by the three judge court.

In judgments delivered in July Justice Kelly dismissed both Jordan’s and Charles Byrne challenges against the result.

In his judgment, Justice Kelly rejected her claims that statements by the Minister for Health Simon Harris were such as to materially affect the outcome of the referendum.

There was no illegality in the Minister discharging his ministerial functions while continuing to campaign for a Yes result, he ruled.

He was also satisfied the activity complained of was not such as to materially affect the outcome of the referendum as a whole. He also rejected arguments about alleged electoral irregularities.

Much of what was claimed in her affidavits was assertion, speculation and inadmissible hearsay, he said.

In particular was the remarkable and speculative proposition, by comparison with the 2011 census, it could be stated there could be over registration of up to 600,000 persons on the electoral register.

He was not satisfied she had provided prima facie evidence of the matters alleged and had also not presented prima facie evidence of material effect.

Byrne, a piano teacher and musician, of College Rise, Drogheda, Co Louth Co Louth opted not to appeal the High Court’s decision.

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Aodhan O'Faolain & Ray Managh

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