Fermanagh South Tyrone election reaches court

The ongoing row over Michelle Gildernew’s election as Fermanagh / South Tyrone MP is due to reach the courts today. Rodney Connor is claiming there were breaches of the statutory rules and is seeking a scrutiny of the votes, a recount and a determination that Ms Gildernew was not duly elected.

The victorious Sinn Fein candidate insists, however, that she was properly returned last month by the people of Fermanagh and South Tyrone as their MP.

Connor claims to have two witnesses who saw six votes counted which should have been rejected. To the surprise of the Lord Chief Justice who will be hearing the case, the disputed ballot papers have not been found for the courts to scrutinise.

We have of course been here before with Fermanagh / South Tyrone. In 2001 Gildernew won by 53 votes and there was a legal challenge after Garrison polling station was kept open. On that occasion the judges allowed the election result to stand.

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  • This should be interesting but my guess is that the courts will not want to rock the boat. Just as the courts decreed electoral rules counted for nothing in 2001 they will mean nothing today.

    On a side note, does anyone remember on what technicality Gerry Malone got the general election in Winchester deemed ineligible, when he was defeated by Mark Oaten by the even slimmer margin of 2.

  • propaganda

    The following points have to be made about that election result.
    1) The Electoral Officer on their say so votes that were previously ruled invalid by the deputy.
    2) Majority of the electorate voted against Rodney Connor than for him.
    3) Legal precedent of the 2001 result in same constituency. There is historical precedent in England of a seat being decided by two votes and in the most recent Westminister election of a seat being defended by forty two votes.
    5) Some ballot papers allegedly spoilt for example ‘TUV’ scrawled on. So thus reducing the vote for Connor, it has been stated that this denied him victory. I would rather put it that the firm majority of the electorate in the constituency that did so.
    6) It could also be the case that the Unionist tallymen saw the combined DUP/UUP vote in 2005 = more votes than the Republicans. And assumed instant victory over all those pesky Shinners.
    7) I must ask what is the cost to taxpayers for this court case and potential by-election?

    Course above everything else it has to be added Gildernew still won despite ‘Unionist Unity.’

  • Dewi

    Votes disqualified for lack of some official mark on them but where intent could be determined.

  • William Markfelt

    ‘7) I must ask what is the cost to taxpayers for this court case and potential by-election?’

    Immaterial, surely?

  • Christy Walsh

    At best if the challenge is successful the outcome would probably resemble the Joe Hendron outcome back in 1992/3.

  • lover not a fighter

    There are probably more Nationalists/ Republicans on the electoral roll now anyway (legitimately I mean in case of any mis-understanding)

  • Drumlin Rock

    NEWS UPDATE
    Fresh from court room one, the sound system is crap and its hard to work out who is who, but after the preliminaries today the jist of the story today was supplied by two witnesses.
    Firstly the presiding officer at one of the disputed boxes, the issue in this case revolves around the number of votes in the box did not tieing up with her tally of those who voted, nor with the number of left over votes. The possibility of “sample ballots” ending up in the box was discussed, as was postal votes and finally human error, ie. not all voters were recorded. Not sure if her evidence was conclusive for either case.
    Secondly Tom Elliott MLA gave his recollection of the count process, from the early hours of the 7th till the final count later that day, he explained the various challenges they made to the Count team and disputed invalid votes, how practices were different from normal and Douglas Bane refused their request for a full recount and verification, in return he was challenged on why they did not dispute the invalid votes during the first three counts.

  • billy

    Pointless exercise.

    If the court calls for a re-run Gildernew will return with a massively increased majority – regardless of a unified Orange candiate and regardless of whatever snivelling, stoopish runt Margaret Ritchie comes up with.

    Win Win all around for the Shinners. Tickety Boo.

    I wish them Unionists would just stop whinging about it.

    One thing’s for certain, if there’s a re-run Arlene’s gonna wait until it’s absolutely confirmed before she does her victory roar lol. Prat.

  • fin

    “, in return he was challenged on why they did not dispute the invalid votes during the first three counts.”

    bit of a cliffhanger Drumlin, did he answer?

  • fin

    Actually it gets more entertaining, frankly amazed that all thi was kept for the courtcase.

    Think I might use all these different numbers for my lottery tickek on Wednesday 36,8,6,11,………

  • fin
  • Hopping the Border

    is the james cooper mentioned in the 2001 case also a witness in this case?

  • Reader

    propaganda: 2) Majority of the electorate voted against Rodney Connor than for him.
    If that matters in a first past the post election, then the obvious response is:
    2) Majority of the electorate voted against Michelle Gildernew than for her.

  • Dec

    That’s what I read…I also believe the other witness is a certain Mrs Connor. Make of that what you will.

  • Dec

    “Majority of the electorate voted against Michelle Gildernew than for her.”
    Not quite. Should be: Majority of the electorate didn’t vote for Michelle Gildernew.

  • Jean Meslier

    Rodney and Arlene’s effort at flogging a dead horse exudes embarrassment on a scale of the David Brent “dance routine” in the Office.

    The message from the Monty Python “Dead Parrot” sketch also springs to mind.
    …’E’s not pinin’! ‘E’s passed on! This parrot is no more! He has ceased to be! ‘E’s expired and gone to meet ‘is maker! ‘E’s a stiff! Bereft of life, ‘e rests in peace! If you hadn’t nailed ‘im to the perch ‘e’d be pushing up the daisies! ‘Is metabolic processes are now ‘istory! ‘E’s off the twig! ‘E’s kicked the bucket, ‘e’s shuffled off ‘is mortal coil, run down the curtain and joined the bleedin’ choir invisibile!! THIS IS AN EX-PARROT!!

  • USA

    If Mr. Connor is claiming fake ballot papers were counted, would it not have been a good idea to get some examples for the court. Not sure a court can side with him without any evidence.

  • Reader

    Dec: Not quite. Should be: Majority of the electorate didn’t vote for Michelle Gildernew.
    I assumed ‘propaganda’ was honest and had checked his facts; I interpreted his confusing syntax accordingly, and responded in the same way. But to put it more precisely: “More people voted against Michelle Gildernew than voted for her”.
    USA: If Mr. Connor is claiming fake ballot papers were counted, would it not have been a good idea to get some examples for the court.
    Are you suggesting he should have taken some ballot papers home from the count? The judge has already criticised the officers for losing track of disputed ballot papers. If they had let a candidate take some home he would have hit the roof!

  • Politico68

    i think they should re-run the election. If the SDLP don’t stand asise on this occasion they will be wiped out.

  • Neil

    USA: If Mr. Connor is claiming fake ballot papers were counted, would it not have been a good idea to get some examples for the court.
    Are you suggesting he should have taken some ballot papers home from the count?

    No but he should have gotten off his arse and chased them down soon after the count, not actuallly having to take them home to have them produced for the court. The fake ballot papers that Rodney’s mucker claimed to have seen being handed out, outside a school, some of which she claims she subsequently confiscated inside the school could have been retained and produced though.

    But Rodney could certainly have chased up the boxes containing the votes in the days after the election instead of waiting months and saying the votes cannot be found. The fact that the votes cannot be verified is as much evidence of a miscount as it is of a correct count so I’d imagine he’ll be sent packing.

  • propaganda

    I apologise for my previous post which seems to have been lost in translation in
    which I tried to show how much of an uphill challenge Rodney Connor faces in order to prove his case.

    http://www.ark.ac.uk/elections/afst.htm
    My next point is on these numbers
    Rodney Connor had secured the unionist vote to its limit, whereas Michelle Gildernew squeezed the SDLP vote.
    The SDLP vote is still there to be squeezed again if there is a by election or not.

    Rodney Connor should rather focus in for an Assembly Seat in 2011. Which would be more interesting be it for UUP or DUP or even standing as an Independent.

  • madraj55

    Billy….I suspect Arlene is still sore about that too revealing gesture. because it exposes the line she likes to put out that she’s a moderate when she’s far from it.

  • Reader

    USA: But Rodney could certainly have chased up the boxes containing the votes in the days after the election instead of waiting months and saying the votes cannot be found.
    This isn’t Florida you know. The ballots are never released to be pawed by politicians after the count. If it was ever possible normally, it especially wouldn’t be possible with a pending court case. It is the electoral officers who have lost track of the disputed ballots in the heap.

  • Hopping the Border

    Really?

    Perhaps some of the fermanagh residents on here can confirm/rubbish this?

  • Charminator

    There’s more hope of Ian Paisley meeting the Pope, than the courts fiddling with this. It opens a total can of worms for them and I’d imagine if it’s to be decided, they’ll let Rodney appeal it up to the Supreme Court (which he’ll likely not do).
    As an aside, I agree with Reader regarding the ‘more people voted against X’, ‘more people voted against Y’. Absolutely no relevance in a FPTP election – I suspect a great many seats are won purely on the basis of a plurality alone.

  • medillen

    Its called ‘discovery’ the person taking the case has the power of discovery to go back and find the disputed votes to prove his/her case. Rodney Connor and his team chose not to exercise that right when it was available.

  • medillen

    PS, me thinks its because they knew they would not find them.

  • Neil

    What? No more *News Updates* in advance of the court’s ruling? Ok allow me:

    http://www.belfasttelegraph.co.uk/news/politics/candidate-claims-voting-skewed-by-fake-ballots-14948419.html

    Miss Bradshaw, a presiding |officer at the station, told the court she had concerns that duplicate ballots were placed in the box.

    She claimed “very good” copies were being handed out by a man she described as “representing the other party, Sinn Fein”.

    The election worker outlined how she confiscated some of the “ballots” from voters… Miss Bradshaw has since been dismissed from her role because of the “poor quality” of her work.

    http://www.belfasttelegraph.co.uk/news/local-national/northern-ireland/official-lsquodismissive-of-ballot-count-concernsrsquo-14949419.html

    The court was also told that eight “excess” votes in a ballot box taken from Holy Trinity Primary School have now been accounted for, and are no longer in contention.

    http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-northern-ireland-11313620

    The chief electoral officer told the election court in Dungannon that ballot papers had been counted effectively and efficiently but, above all, accurately.

    He also defended his decision not to allow a fourth recount in Fermanagh/South Tyrone.

    He said it would have been unreasonable because Michelle Gildernew had received more votes than Rodney Connor on the three previous recounts.

    http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-northern-ireland-11305805

    But counsel for the Electoral Office said the table for doubtful votes at the count in Omagh leisure centre was clearly marked.

    The barrister put it to the UUPs’ Tom Elliott that the team’s failure to have a strategy to look at these votes suggested a rather amateurish approach.

    He told the MLA that their complaints were a “case of sour grapes”.

    The hearing continues.

    So in summary, representatives of the electoral commission say this is a case of sour grapes, the contentious papers are accounted for, the option to view contentious ballots was there but unavailed of, one of Rodney’s witnesses (coincidentally enough also a Unionist politician) who has complained of a man handing out fake ballots has since been dismissed due to the poor quality of her work (presumably making inaccuracies of her own?) didn’t actually retain any the fake ballots which she allegedly confiscated and the Chief Electoral Officer says that he declared Gildernew the winner due to the fact that she’d won accordng to three consecutive recounts. All topped by the cherry on the cake that is that Rodney made little effort to track down proof of his complaint (probably due to the fact that there is no proof) over the months up to the legal action and now expects an absence of proof to be equal to the presence of guilt.

    Did I miss anything?

  • Neil

    Jeez, still no updates?

    http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-northern-ireland-11604851

    Delivering judgement at the High Court in Belfast on Friday Lord Chief Justice Sir Declan Morgan pointed out that three extra votes remained unaccounted for.

    However, he said: “Even if those votes were introduced in breach of the rules and if they had all been counted in favour of the first respondent their exclusion would still have given the first respondent (Ms Gildernew) a majority of one vote and the result would not have been affected.

    “We therefore determine that Michelle Gildernew was duly elected as Member of Parliament for the constituency of Fermanagh and South Tyrone and shall certify our determination to the Speaker of the House of Commons accordingly.”

    Democracy. It’s a bitch wha?

  • Skintown Lad

    So what? Almost all legal cases have witnesses that want the judgement to go one way or the other – doesn’t mean there’s anything improper about them giving evidence. Your comments are a bit uninformed.