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Court of Appeal to rule later this month on woman's challenge to Eighth Referendum result

On 25 May, 1,429,981 people voted to repeal the Eighth Amendment.

Image: Leah Farrell

THE COURT OF Appeal will rule later this month on a Dublin woman’s challenge against the abortion referendum result.

Ms Joanna Jordan from Dun Laoghaire Co Dublin has appealed last month’s ruling by High Court President Mr Justice Peter Kelly who ruled that neither Ms Jordan nor another challenger Mr Charles Byrne met the necessary legal test set by the Referendum Act before a court can permit a petition to be brought.

The Act requires a petition can be brought only if the intended petitioner has prima facie evidence of matters likely to “materially” affect the referendum outcome.

On 25 May, 1,429,981 people voted to repeal the Eighth Amendment, which granted equal recognition to the right to life of the unborn and the mother. 723,632 voted against.

Ms Jordan, of Upper Glenageary Road, Dun Laoghaire has 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 has been opposed by the State.

Her application to overturn the High Court’s findings was heard on Friday by the three-judge appeal court comprised of the President of the Court of Appeal Mr Justice George Birmingham, Ms Justice Mary Irvine, and Mr Justice Gerard Hogan.

Following the completion of submissions from the parties the court, which had at the outset refused an application by Ms Jordan’s legal representatives for a short adjournment to allow new counsel involved in the case time to consider their submission, reserved its decision.

The court said it hoped to be in a position to give its decision later this month.

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

In his judgment, Mr 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.

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

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About the author:

Aodhan O'Faolain & Ray Managh

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