“three extra votes remain unaccounted for” (Michelle Gildernew remains MP for Fermanagh and South Tyrone)

At lunchtime, the Lord Chief Justice delivered his judgment on Rodney Connor’s petition and declared that Michelle Gildernew was duly elected as MP for Fermanagh and South Tyrone constituency. He found that “there were some issues with how the counts were conducted” and three extra votes remain unaccounted for.

However, the Newsletter report Sir Declan Morgan’s view that

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.

UTV add the reaction from Michelle Gildernew outside the Belfast courts who described the judgment as a “victory for democracy”.

I am very pleased and delighted at the result this morning. I’m glad it’s over, I have to say. And while I’ve been carrying on my work as MP for Fermanagh and South Tyrone it’s good to have this out of the way.

It is high time that political Unionism accepted the democratic will of the people. I am sorry that due to the intransigence of Unionism in the constituency and beyond, it had to come to this case being brought before the court. It is now time to move on, it is time that they accepted the political realities of 2010 – they no longer operate within an Orange State, it is gone.

It will be interesting to see if The Electoral Office for Northern Ireland (EONI) will issue a statement addressing the irregularities.

In the end it came down to one vote. If that doesn’t boost voter turnout at the next elections, what will?

Update – Pete has turned up what I couldn’t find earlier – the link to the judgment. EONI’s facilitation of doubtful vote checking at the FST count was called into question.

Rule 44(4): The returning officer shall give the counting agents all such reasonable facilities for overseeing the proceedings, and all such information with respect to them, as he can give them consistently with the orderly conduct of the proceedings and the discharge of his duties in connection with them.

Having been on the floor at the Lagan Valley count centre, the processes described in the judgment feel very familiar, and while I was unaware of the change to a continuous checking of the doubtful votes, I do remember the candidates/agents being specifically called over to the well labelled Doubtful Vote table in the far corner of the leisure centre hall.

There were a number of irregularities and probable slip-ups identified in polling stations. Probably the case in polling stations across other constituencies – though with no forensic investigation they won’t be discovered. The polling station staff and presiding officer training is bound to be even more rigorous in the run up to the complex triple ballot in May 2011.

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  • Pete Baker
  • fp veritas

    It call into question the legal advice received by Mr Conner

    This is the second time that they have lost in an Election
    Court Will they ever learn

    This has cost PSF/IRA C 20k It must have cost

    RC a simlar amount what a waste of money

  • Itwas SammyMcNally whatdoneit

    Why were all the costs not awarded against Conner?

  • The Pict

    Funny how Glenda Jackson’s 42 vote majority was the smallest in the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland in the Daily Mail and nobody complained about this inaccuracy!

  • Greenflag

    And the winner is drum roll

    The legal fraternity .

    What was Mr Connor thinking or persuaded to think .

    Gildernew has the seat for life now . The SDLP will not want to throw good money after bad following their poor performance and nearly electing a Unionist in FST . Worse than nearly electing a Republican in East Belfast .

  • fp veritas

    He might be a Con Man

  • Blair

    “Why were all the costs not awarded against Conner?”

    Sammy,

    Because the Sinners invited themselves into the case which had in fact been taken against the Electoral Officer.

  • pippakin

    It was always going to end this way. Michelle Gildernew won it. If anyone had any doubts, tough.

  • Itwas SammyMcNally whatdoneit

    Blair,

    Ok ta didnt realise that – how was that llikley to affect the outcome?

  • Jj

    “The Nationalist majority in the county, i.e., Fermanagh, notwithstanding a reduction of 336 in the year, stands at 3,684. We must ultimately reduce and liquidate that majority. This county, I think it can be safely said, is a Unionist county. The atmosphere is Unionist. The Boards and properties are nearly all controlled by Unionists. But there is still this millstone [the Nationalist majority] around our necks.”
    E.C. Ferguson, Unionist Party, then Stormont MP, April 1948
    Later resigned from Parliament in October 1949 to become Crown Solicitor for County Fermanagh.
    Reported in: Irish News, 13 April 1948

    …not any more, mate.

  • Blair

    Sammy,

    I don’t know,but clearly the Sinners were rattled enough to spend twenty grand on the case. The news said that Gildernew gave out an audible sigh of relief when the result was announced.

  • Seymour Major

    Hopefully, this will mark the end of sectarian carve-ups at general elections.

    “Gildernew has the seat for life now . The SDLP will not want to throw good money after bad”

    I think the first part of this comment is more probable than not but by no means certain. The Nationalist proportion of the population in Fermanagh & ST is now at about 55% and rising. If AV comes in, all hope of a unionist win will have gone. If the cards then fall right so that the SDLP ends up as one of the last two candidates, it could take the bulk of the unionist transfer votes to steal the seat from Sinn Fein. I appreciate, it is a long shot. It is still a very distinct possibility.

    Sinn Fein will not want the AV referendum to succeed.

  • DC

    While the safety net is being pulled away from the working class and disabled, how nice to see lawyers retaining theirs.

  • Johnny Boy

    Zing!

  • Jj

    I love that quote. Puts all the sneering self righteous self aggrandising “we’re not bigoted” unionists in their place.

    Back then, you could be sectarian and it was something you could be proud of and make no apologies for.

    Some have learned that times have changed and some never will.

  • Blair

    Jj,

    That quote is no more sectarian than any of the Sinner quotes about ‘greening the west’ etc. They remain proudly sectarian and unapologetic about it.

    Gildernew scraped in with a one vote majority in an election that saw a fairly low unionist turnout, and TUV morons spoiling their votes. Her seat is far from a certainty for the future.

  • drumlins rock

    Seymour, it all boils down to the redraw with the reduced no of seat, but it highly unlikely to benifit unionists, however AV is a different matter, we saw 50% of the SDLP vote go to SF, if you consider 20% (ie 40% of those left) usually transfer to unionists and more than 10% would not transfer at all Connor might have won under AV. Athough in that case it would have been Tom and Arelene, now there is a different situation… who know what will happen in the future? AV could work for either centre party with the right candidate.

  • Munsterview

    “……….It is now time to move on, it is time that they accepted the political realities of 2010 – they no longer operate within an Orange State, it is gone………” Michelle G.

  • Munsterview

    “……It is now time to move on, it is time that they accepted the political realities of 2010 – they no longer operate within an Orange State, it is gone……” M.G.

    Congratulations once again to Michelle, good to see a result beyond dispute.

    Given my Sinn Fein sympathies in this matter, it would be most ungracious of me if I did not also spare some republican thanks for the Truly Useless Vestige unionists and the vital part they played in ensuring Michelle’s election.

    While mainstream Unionism may regard the Truly Useless Vestige unionism as a marginalized nuisance; all those of republican politics do not share this view and I for one hope the TUV will continue to play a useful part in ensuring that Sinn Fein, sooner rather than later, assumes it’s inevitable and natural role as the dominant political party in the Six Counties!

  • Politico68

    Well said !!

  • Blair

    Munster,

    She would say that wouldn’t she?

  • lamhdearg

    “It is high time that political Unionism accepted the democratic will of the people” is that the people of all of Northern Ireland or just the parts that nationlists have a majority, its a pity Michelle’s party did not accecpt that back in the 70s, “I am sorry that due to the intransigence of Unionism in the constituency and beyond, it had to come to this case being brought before the court.” is anyone posting here really going to claim that if the shoe was on the other foot S.F. would not have done as the U.U.P.did?. “It is now time to move on,” on this i agree.

  • Dec

    Blair

    ‘greening the west/North/etc’ is a common phrase amongst the DUP whenever there’s an election on, designed to raise the spectre of ‘themmuns’ running amok. Nigel Dodds ought to copyright it. However, if you feel there’s no harm meant by the use of the word ‘liquidation’ when referring to the Nationalist community, then you should probably join Vanguard or the UFF.

    “Gildernew scraped in with a one vote majority in an election that saw a fairly low unionist turnout, and TUV morons spoiling their votes. Her seat is far from a certainty for the future.”

    Make that four. You also forgot to mention the 3500 votes that the Fearghal McKinney pissed up the wall, and the SDLP won’t be seeing again any time soon.

  • Jj

    Liquidating the nationalists is acceptable, is it? I recall Bill Craig saying something similar…

  • Alias

    The Orange state is a PSF myth. The reality is the British state which hasn’t gone anywhere. Stormont, incidentally, ended in 1972.

  • Blair

    Dec,

    Greening the west is a Sinner term which they use to cover up for the fact that Northern Ireland remains firmly in the UK.

    You might have a point about the word ‘liquidating’ if any such thing had been happening in 1948, or indeed any time thereafter. In fact the only people who carried out a policy of ‘liquidation’ in Fermanagh were Irish republicans.

    It was one vote. Three of them were invalid.

    The votes that McKinney got would have been from the sort of decent nationalist who would rather slit their wrists than put an X on a ballot paper for someone who supported the slaughter of their unionist neighbours. Don’t be holding out too much hope on that score.

  • Blair

    Alias,

    Well said!!

  • Comrade Stalin

    I don’t know how things are in South Dakota or Arkansas or whereever the hell it is you’re from, but surely you are aware that the TUV did not run in FST, and indeed did not run anywhere where they deemed there would be a risk of a non-unionist taking the seat ?

  • In the end it came down to one vote.

    Err, no: the record will continue to show that Gildernew took the seat by four votes: notice not one but two ifs in your quotation from the LCJ.

    That means (I think) that there are still half-a-dozen UK polls since 1918 producing a lower majority: most recently Mark Oaten in Winchester, 1997 — and that one was overturned. So, for psephological limbo, we’re back to AJ Flint taking Ilkeston for the coalition by just two against GH Oliver (honest Labour) in 1931.

    On the other hand, I’d hate to have to research whether FST or Mid-Ulster sets the record with the higher number of Unionist resorts to the Courts, once the ballot-box failed to deliver the result required.

  • Blair

    Comrade,

    Several of the ballot papers were defaced with TUV scrawled on them. The morons prefered to see Gildernew get in than a moderate unionist.

  • MV – I think that is a bit misplaced. The TUV are every bit the conformist Unionists they proclaim themselves not to be. Otherwise they would have opposed every DUP and UUP candidate – instead they rolled over and had their belly tickled in the constituencies where an additional unionist candidate would have spread out the pro-union vote. In defence, they will proudly grip their sashes and say they did their bit for Queen Ulster – but they are just more DUP/UUP foot soldiers waiting to return to the fold.

  • Reader

    Dec: However, if you feel there’s no harm meant by the use of the word ‘liquidation’ when referring to the Nationalist community, then you should probably join Vanguard or the UFF.
    That’s rather hysterical. He was talking about reducing and liquidating a voting majority. I’m not even sure the more sinister colloquialism was in use back then.
    Do you *actually* suspect he planned 3700 murders between elections?

  • Itwas SammyMcNally whatdoneit

    Jj,

    That is a brilliant quote. Perhaps the fine fellow has a few more to his name?

    “The atmosphere is Unionist” – You have to wonder how Unionists in the “Unionist county” prevented the Fenian atmosphere getting across the border on really windy days.

  • Itwas SammyMcNally whatdoneit

    Blair,

    Yes seems strange unless there was a bit of public relations going on.

  • Seymour Major

    DR

    I agree with the last sentence but it still boils down to the SDLP vote. Given the choice of a unonist or Sinn Fein, many of their transfer votes would go to the Shinners.

    There are, I know, a hard core of SDLP voters who would never vote SF under any circumstances but are there enough of them. In the 2010 election, they would almost certainly have made a difference. As to 2015, who knows? Demography will make it harder for unionists next time.

  • PaddyReilly

    Not that, but 3,700 Nationalist bums on ships sailing to England or Amerikay (or on buses going South) would have been welcome. Or 1,850 Nationalist bums, plus the same number of decent Protestants immigrating into the county from elsewhere.

    I find it strange that Fermanagh protestants seems to think they have been the victim of a ‘genocide’, yet are still within a whisker of taking a seat where they didn’t have a majority in 1948.

  • Cynic

    Errrr… a little problemette

    Rodney was of course an INDEPENDENT candidate of Unionist persuasion but unaligned , we were told, to any specific partry.

    When the case failed today he was at the Court flanked by Tom Elliott and various other UUP local players. Most of us wont have recognised any of them but lets not worry about that. There were no DUPers to be seen.

    Now the Great Leader has issued a Press Statement. I presume its one of those official ones he was so keen on – you know the ones checked through the press office so they were kosher and in line with Party Policy.

    In this the Great Leader (Blessed be His Name) says:

    ” Ulster Unionist Party Leader Tom Elliott has expressed regret at the dismissal of Rodney Connor’s challenge of the Fermanagh and South Tyrone Westminster poll, but said that the court’s findings vindicated THEIR decision to pursue legal action.

    “While I am obviously disappointed at today’s decision, I still firmly believe that WE were right to take this case.

    Now forgive me Tom but just who were WE – the candidate was supposed to be an independent?

    And who in their right minds in the UUP Press Office advised the Great Leader that it was wise to stand beside a train wreck for the optics?

  • Cynic

    Whoops I missed the last line of my last post

    Myopic Fermanagh bungling again

  • Drumlins Rock

    paddy, a large republican DEA around Coalisland was transfered to mid Ulster in the 90s restoring the balance.

  • Drumlins Rock

    Cynic, you take your name to extremes, WE is both DUP & UUP and others who supported Rodney, if anything the DUP were keener on taking the court case. Personally I think the Judges did a bit of a Cop-out but I guess the will avoid “deciding” election results if at all possible, it would not have been that difficult to order a recount even now.

  • Greenflag

    Where there is law/lawyers there is injustice . Where there is no law and no lawyers there is even more injustice . It’s the human condition .

    The USA has 300 lawyers per 100,000 of the population -the UK 80 , and Japan 11 .

    Guess which country is the most law abiding , has the fewest homicides and the least number of people in prison pro rated for population size ?

  • Cynic

    So Was Rodney an UUP Candidate?

  • Munsterview

    Going on the usual, the Red Comrades stepping up to the mark in defense of the windbag admiral was as predictable as annual prairie snows !

    One would have thought that there would be a wide gulf between Alliance unionism and the Truly Useless Vestige unionism but apparently not.

    While my first response some months back would have been ‘ It is not always about you’ given what I do now know regarding tolerated reactionary attitudes in the Alliance it is not particularly surprising that there should be an instinctive mutual defense of ‘back to the future’ mentalities !

    However to the matters in hand : it was my information that there were not just a few votes spoiled by Truly Useless Vestige people or their sympathizers, that this figure was in fact around two dozen ?

    Whatever : one thing is certain; the late and great W B Yeats wondered if…… ‘ words of mine send young men out to die ‘….? ( Willie, like others of the British /Irish class, current crop included, was not one to underestimate his own importance ! )

    What is certain in this context is that some of the Old Guard in FST not particularly enamored with the political progress of ‘ the suits’ as the latter are less than affectionately known in these quarters, would have been content to remain at home had it not been for the ‘back to the future’ rants of the TUV.

    Words of theirs did send people out to vote in republican circles !

    How many five, ten, twenty,fifty, one hundred ? All now academic……. just two made the difference and as the TUV motivated more than two doughty old veterans of the Fermanagh. South Tyrone hills, then it must be conceded that the TUC made delivered the final numbers that put Michelle over the line, be that from spoilt votes or in motivating republican voters who would otherwise been content to merely observe the process on TV from a fireside armchair.

    The TUV are indeed deserving of republican thanks in this regard !

    On a personal note my thanks also to some generous nationalist soul out there for a little memento of the occasion, well three to be exact. The items are now framed and have pride of place in my library….. they have provided quite a talking point. Nuff said on that ! Most appreciated !

  • Munsterview @ 6:38 pm:

    About the only thing there that makes sense is that Yeats wondered if Cathleen Ní Houlihan (which, by current common consent owed more to Augusta Gregory) was a trifle … shall we say … inflammatory.

    Yeats was merely following Pádraig Pearse in that assessment. As Pearse himself testified, it certainly inspired him.

    That apart, I find distinctly distasteful any simplistic parallel between the tragic events of Easter 1916 and petty doings over a few FST ballots. Such sensibility, of course, can be discounted from one of those “Red Comrades” of the “British/Irish class”.

  • Greenflag

    For those who are scratching their heads- the above was meant as a reply to DC above at 22 Oct at 3.32 p.m .

    And the answer as nobody has guessed it is Japan .

  • Lionel Hutz

    If Rodney Connor wants to spend money on his lawyers, thats his problem. Whats it got to do with NI social problems. You would hardly expect the lawyers to work for free

  • Kevin Barry

    That’s perhaps the most simplistic post I have read in a very long time, without taking into account socio-economic conditions of any of the abovementioned countries.

    Blaming these things on lawyers is laughable

  • Greenflag

    Go read it again -this time more slowly -exactly where did I blame lawyers for anything ?

  • Kevin Barry

    OK Greenflag, aside from your incredibly patronising reply, I concede you noted that where their are no lawyers their is even more injustice, fair point. I was wrong .

    However, one of the problems I have with your post is the contention that Japan is more law abiding and therefore have fewer lawyers. That is true, however, it’s not because they don’t want more lawyers, it’s because the exams are incredibly difficult and as such they fill the gap with importing foreign trained lawyers, hence my jumping down your throat so very quickly

  • Greenflag

    It’s not my contention that the Japanese are more law abiding -it’s statistical fact borne out for decades by UN , WHO etc etc statistics .

    So you are now suggesting that it’s incredibly difficult exams that keep the Japanese law abiding ? Now that sounds like a good idea which the USA and Uk might want to learn from .

    There are those in Japan who would favour having more lawyers . You will find that they tend to be the same kind of people who ripped out the heart of the USA and UK economies . For these kind of people know how to use the law to help protect ill gotten gains while they use the samll print to steal from each other and to squeeze any remaining asset values from any of the middle or working classes of these countries that dare to contest the ‘big’ banks or corporations !

    Heres some further reading to help you on your way .

    http://www.law.com/jsp/law/international/LawArticleIntl.jsp?id=1202428757999

  • Kevin Barry

    Ha ha ha ha, I get the impression you didn’t read the small print on something and you got stung along the way. A little advice when signing something, just bring it to your solicitor and he/she can explain what everything means in case you’re having some trouble understanding it.

    I suggest you point your anger not at those whose job it is to work for their Client but at the politicians who dream up these laws that effectively make theft legal.

    Of course you could live in NI where the legal exams are the most difficult in Ireland and the UK and has a cap on the number that can qualify each year. Let me know how that’s working out

  • Munsterview

    As to the Japanese and ‘Law Breaking’ per se, the comments unfortunately show a lack of cultural understanding. Japanese politics are Clan and Clientele based on a far more structured basis than Ireland. Corruption is an instutionalised part of Japanese politics and always has been even before it became a client state of the USA.

    Japan also has it’s own native mafia and the heads of these criminal clans have working arrangements with and are as much a structured part of the political system as the mafia are in Italian politics.

    If there are ‘low crime figures’ for that it is because Japan still has a Fianna Failure ‘fix it’ justice system. Remember ‘Greenflag’ when one of the victim of a drunken driver was shocked to encounter this convicted criminal supposedly in jail for a long custodian sentence sauntering around a shopping centre without a care in the world.

    Why…… because Supreme Court Justice Hugh O’Flarthey, had a word with a Circuit court judge who had a word with …. well you no doubt know how the Irish system works……. or do you? The Supreme Court Judge and all other judges were forced to resign. That same evening Berties then ‘leg over’ was pictured outside O’Flahertys house expressing sympathy with his wife and some months later surprise, surprise Hugh got a well paid job in the EU !

    Only in Ireland…… neither Bertie or his ‘leg over’ visited the victims family but then they did not come from ‘ good people’ i.e. those living in the upper-class prosperous neighborhood of O”Flahertys like the young drunken drivers family did.

    If you know anything of insider Irish Establishment politics and how the system works, ( which I am beginning to increasingly doubt ) you will also know that the ‘ Mr Justice Hugh O’Flarthery incident’ was not unusual or exceptional, it was just one of these cased that happened to catch the public mood of anger at the time of the ‘fix’ forcing something to be done about it.

    If is also remarkable that a former Justice of the Supreme Court forced to resign his position in such controversial circumstances, should also prove to be the most suitable Fianna Failure candidate for a prestige EU post where among other things he is monitoring allegations of corruption and illegalities !

  • Kevin Barry

    MV; couldn’t agree more with the above. The point I was making is that being ‘law abiding’ and the number of lawyers around is a bogus comparison.

    Let’s use an example, how many lawyers are there in for instance, Somalia, at the moment? Perhaps the most lawless country on the planet, however, that is up for debate seeing as there isn’t really a state there to enforce or create laws per se so it may not technically be lawless.

    As for the UK, according to the statistics, crime has been going down year on year since the mid 90s while presumably the number of solicitors has been increasing.

  • Greenflag

    MV.

    Nihongo o hanasimasu . I’ve lived and worked there for the better part of a year. I see and have seen more police/gardai and police vehicles in Dublin, London and New York in a week that I remember seeing in Japan in 10 months .

    I did not aver that there is no corruption particularly in business and politics .

    As for your Irish examples The point I made was ‘where there was law there you’ll find injustice ‘. Neither Ireland nor the UK nor anywhere else is immune . The law has always favoured the rich and powerful which should’nt come as a surprise as they largely frame the law for their own advantage . When you consider that the law both here and in the UK and the USA at one time favoured discrimination against women and children , and held that slavery was okay and that Catholics could’nt have a crap in the morning without breaking some law etc etc . When the ‘english ‘ /anglo saxon terrorists /freedom fighters opposed William the Conquerors rule in the 11th century and lost they were butchered in the thousands and then found guilty by Norman Law .

    Today the ‘court ‘ of last resort in the economic sphere is the IMF and who appoints them ?

  • Greenflag

    Many of our politicians in the Dail are either solicitors or teachers . The latter would’nt have a clue what goes on in the business and financial world and many of the former have become politicians in order to get closer to the gravy source . I’m glad to hear that a ‘cap’ has been put on the number that can qualify each year in NI . In the longer term it should save the province a tidy sum and should prevent the province from being overun with the b*****ds !

  • Greenflag

    ‘As for the UK, according to the statistics, crime has been going down year on year since the mid 90s while presumably the number of solicitors has been increasing.’

    Thats been roughly the period of the Labour administration .

    So if crime has been going down how will the increasing numbers of solicitors avoid having their incomes reduced now that the property bubble has burst and sales are reduced ?

    Don’t worry they’ll find a way soon enough :(!

  • PaddyReilly

    But the 1948 quote was about the County of Fermanagh, and not any part of Coalisland, which has always been embarrassingly Fenian in complexion.

  • fitzjameshorse1745

    Sensible news from the Law Courts.

  • Mike

    Leaving aside the years upon years of mass murder perpetrated by the “movement” Ms Gildernew forms part of, which aimed to overthrow the democratic will of the people of Northern Ireland…

    I wonder how Ms Gildernew feels about the fact that a clear majority of the voters in Fermanagh & South Tyrone voted for representation at Westminster?

  • Another recruit for proper 100-octane PR (none of that manky AV stuff being dispensed by the ConDem coalition!)

  • Kevin Barry

    Greenflag, I do find this hilarious, not because I disagree but because you are ranting away.

    I can summarise my point in the form of a simple equation

    More Lawyers ≠ More Lawlessness

    nor does

    More Lawyers = L

    Again, I suggest you point your wrath at those who frame the laws as opposed to

    As for solicitors avoiding decrease in their wages, they probably won’t, nor should they. Though if you are a niche lawyer and good enough you’ll be fine, those guys always are.

  • Kevin Barry

    Greenflag, I do find this hilarious, not because I disagree but because you are ranting away. In fact, there’s a lot I agree with.

    I can summarise my point in the form of a simple equation

    More Lawyers ≠ More Lawlessness

    nor does

    More Lawyers = More Obedience of the Law, my posting previously was merely tongue in cheek of course.

    Again, I suggest you point your wrath at those who frame the laws as opposed to lawyers and their fees. If you have an alternative to lawyers or reforms in mind, how about sharing it with the rest of us and we can give it a go.

    As for solicitors avoiding a decrease in their wages, they probably won’t, nor should they. Though if you are a niche lawyer (like the ones in this instance) and good enough you’ll be fine, those guys always are and rightly so. Just wait until ‘Tesco Law’ comes into effect, that’s where you will start to see the high street practices going to the wall and people bemoaning about how they used to get a very personalised service from so and so and now they deal with some call centre in [INSERT FOREIGN COUNTRY].

    The law is not immune to market conditions, well, most of the law