Court set to rule on Doherty commission challenge
THE HIGH Court will rule this morning on an application by Sinn Féin TD Pearse Doherty aimed at having the Referendum Commissions withdraw remarks it made earlier this month concerning Ireland’s veto over the European Stability Mechanism.
The Co Donegal TD’s action centred on a statement made by the commission chairman Mr Justice Kevin Feeney whether Ireland has a veto over the establishment of the ESM.
Last night at the High Court, following lengthy legal submissions from both sides, Mr Justice Gerard Hogan said that given the importance of the action and the time constraints involved he will give judgment at 10.30am today.
The judge also said that he would treat the submission as the full hearing of the TD’s case rather than just an application for permission to bring the challenge.
The commission had opposed the Sinn Féin finance spokesman’s application. Michael Collins SC, for the commission, told the court that the application was one which was “flawed and misconceived”. Counsel added that it was opposing the action on legal grounds raised and was expressing no opinions either in favour or in opposition to the fiscal treaty.
Mr Doherty brought proceedings arising out of comments made by Mr Justice Feeney on May 3rd last by stating, in response to if Ireland could veto the ratification of the amendment to article 136 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the EU, that Ireland has “already agreed to the establishment of the ESM”.
The statement added that it was clear that a veto could have been exercised but Ireland has already agreed to the establishment of the ESM.
In an affidavit Mr Doherty says he is not challenging the holding of the referendum or favour any side in the vote, but with the conduct of the commission in relation the comments made last May.
This statement, it is submitted by the TD, has become a matter of debate between the Yes and No sides in the fiscal treaty referendum, and the comment received a lot of attention in the media.
One of the main issues of the campaign is Ireland’s ability to access funding in the event of a No vote.
It has been set out that as part of the treaty that established the ESM that member states must ratify the fiscal treaty in order to draw down from the fund established by the ESM.
However, in a subsequent statement on May 18th last, another statement was issued that gave a more accurate version of the State’s entitlement not to ratify the amendment to article 136.
Richard Humphreys SC, for Mr Doherty, said the first statement, which got a lot of attention from the media gave prominence to Yes arguments over No arguments in the campaign.
However, the May 18th statement by the commission was more correct that the original version.
That statement was not on the front page of the commission’s website and went out on its Twitter feed, which was followed by just 245 people or “0.09 per cent of the population”.
Mr Collins for the commission said that it was their case that there was “nothing wrong with” and “no inconsistency” between the full statements made by the commission on May 3rd and May 18th.
Earlier yesterday the judge said he was refusing Mr Doherty permission to seek a number of declarations sought as part of his proceedings. This was on grounds including that Mr Doherty had “unduly delayed” in bringing his action.