FST challenge destined to fail?

The last time a Unionist attempted to have a court overturn an electoral declaration in Fermanagh South Tyrone was when James Cooper (UUP) failed in his challenge over the 2001 result where he was defeated by 53 votes.

At the time Justice Carswell agreed there had been irregularities at a polling station in Garrison but rejected the appeal:

That said, the issue which we as an election court have to decide is whether the election in the constituency of Fermanagh and South Tyrone was so conducted as to be substantially in accordance with the law as to elections.  The disturbance at St Martin’s School, Garrison was serious and intolerable, but it was an isolated incident and fortunately had a small effect on the voting both in that polling station and in the constituency as a whole.  We must conclude that the condition laid down in section 23(3)(a) of the 1983 Act is satisfied and that we should not declare the election for this constituency invalid.

The relevant section of the  Representation of the People Act states:

3) No parliamentary election shall be declared invalid by reason of any act or omission by the returning officer or any other person in breach of his official duty in connection with the election or otherwise of the parliamentary elections rules if it appears to the tribunal having cognizance of the question that—

(a)the election was so conducted as to be substantially in accordance with the law as to elections; and

(b)the act or omission did not affect its result.

So Rodney Connor will not only need to prove an irregularity but it was substantial enough to affect the result. Don’t fancy his chances much when he is arguing over circa 30 votes with no evidence of where they went.

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  • joeCanuck

    If it fails, an expensive failure for someone.

  • Mark McGregor


    I’d suggest (and just suggest) given Arlene Foster’s hasty departure from the BBC studios on election night as the recount story broke that the DUP are bankrolling Rodney’s doomed through precedent/legislation challenge.

  • Drumlin Rock

    Mark, for the second part to apply them only 4 votes have to be brought into doubt, its quite a low threshold, it is producing evidence of the former that is the main challenge, raising issues like can it be only brought on one instance, ie. “the 36 extra votes” or can any and every suspicious vote be brought to account, ie. if 4 dead people were found to have voted!

  • Mark McGregor

    Not brought into doubt, he has to prove it affected the result. He could find 10,000 dodgy votes – he needs to demonstrate they weren’t just irregular but impacted on the result. As the judgement in 2001 demonstrated a court needs more than an assumption.

    O’Connor’s appeal is a beaten docket given precendent and law.

    They can have all 30 votes declared irregular, if they don’t prove it was either substantial irregularity or show it affected the result (if they could they would have already) the appeal is dead.

    At best he can question a few votes validity – he needs to demonstrate they distorted the outcome and he can’t (or he would have already).

  • joeCanuck

    C’mon DR, do you think the judges are going to examine every vote. Assuming not, which 4 or 36 are they going to examine?
    Mark is right; it’s a lost cause. They, whoever they are, need to move on.

  • joeCanuck

    The comments have disappeared from your “poster” thread.

  • Mark McGregor


    I”m a bit pissed off about that too.

  • Drumlin Rock

    same here, thought my comments were quite witty too lol

  • Drumlin Rock

    Joe it is actually possible i believe, but has not been done for a 100 yrs i think, my personal reading of it is it would only take proving 5 votes cast for Michelle were in valid, but I could be wrong, there also is the possibility that the case is more to do with investigating the alledged discrepancies than acually overturning the result, lodging an appeal is probably the only way of getting to the bottom of some issues.

  • joan

    yippee! the chucks commit electoral thievery and get away with it. what a great place!

  • Rory Carr

    Or, Joan…the United Orange Alliance try to steal Fermanagh South Tyrone but fail to get away with it.

    “Ye pays yer money and ye takes yer choice”, as they say down the market.

  • G O’Neill

    I like they way you threw in the “If four dead people voted” looks like the Connor team are really grasping at straws now. The desperate attempt to try and win this seat back for unionism failed I’m afraid and this will be a SF seat for many years to come. Looks like you’re going to have to get used to the fact that people of FST do not want to be represented in the British Parliament.

  • Don’t be too provincial about this.

    Thanks to the hoo-ha about late would-be voters being turned away, postal voting irregularities, and much.much more, I guess their Legal Lordships are going to consider approving any complaints v-e-r-y carefully.

    Has nobody here yet remembered the Mid Ulster shenanigans after the 1955 election? In a straight fight, Tom Mitchell saw off Charles Beattie by 806 votes (just on 60,000 ballots on the table). Mitchell was in chokey (he had been done for the IRA raid on Omagh barracks), and the Commons voted 197-63 to unseat him as a felon. Alas! Beattie was a member of various appeal tribunals, for which he was entitled to expenses. This was adjudged to mean he held “offices of profit under the Crown”, so he, too, got the heave-ho.

    What fun! What mirth!

    Those who relish MPs’ elections being overturned on judicial appeal might care to refer to Richard Martin (1754-1834), MP for Galway (and one of the founders of the RSPCA “). He recognised as “Humanity Dick” [Snarf! Snarf!] after “Martin’s Act” of 1822, the world’s first legislation penalizing cruelty to animals. When he was challenged on why he devoted so much time and energy to the cause, he responded: ‘Sir, an ox cannot hold a pistol!’ (there is an element of threat in that: his other moniker was “Hairtrigger Dick”, earned on the basis of fighting around a hundred duels).

    His significance here is that his re-election in 1826 was overturned on the ground of “illegal intimidation” (legal intimidation being, presumably, part and parcel of the business of politicking). Having lost his parliamentary immunity, he escaped his creditors by fleeing to Boulogne.

  • If memory serves me right, in the seventies across the water there was a ruling by the courts that lunatics could vote in periods of lucidity. The case had arisen with the introduction of half way houses whereby former patients intead of being released straight back into the community were able to live in houses in hospital grounds without supervision until they felt ready to re-enter society. They could not vote however until they were signed off and left the grounds. The ruling allowed them to vote in periods of lucidity while living in the half way houses.

    Now whether this ruling applied here I don’t know. But there’s an idea for a sketch on my blog. Say along the lines of the DUP rounding up lunatics or similar, parading them before the courts saying “He must have been mad to vote for sinn fein, yer honour,” and the counterclaim “He voted in a period of lucidity, Sir , as any right thinking lunatic would .”