Woman challenges laws preventing bankrupts contesting Dáil and European elections

Jillian Godsil, whose house was repossessed last year, wants to run as candidate for Ireland South

Jillian Godsil: Because  she was declared bankrupt she may only contest local elections but not Dáil and European elections. Photograph: Bryan O’Brien

Jillian Godsil: Because she was declared bankrupt she may only contest local elections but not Dáil and European elections. Photograph: Bryan O’Brien

Sat, Mar 22, 2014, 01:00


A woman who is bankrupt and wants to contest the

European elections on a debt-relief platform has brought a High Court challenge to laws preventing bankrupts contesting Dáil and European elections.

Jillian Godsil, whose house was repossessed last year, wants to run as a candidate in the Ireland South constituency in the European elections, which includes her base at Coolroe, Tinahely, Co Wicklow. She also intends to run as a local candidate to represent Baltinglass on Wicklow County Council and ultimately run for the Dáil.

Because she filed for and was adjudicated bankrupt last month, legally she may contest local, but not Dáil or European, elections.

She is challenging the constitutionality of provisions of the Electoral Act and the European Parliamentary Elections Act preventing bankrupts contesting Dáil and European elections.


Exclusion
She alleges the exclusion of bankrupts breaches the constitutional principle of equality and impermissibly interferes with her right to a free choice as a voter on her own behalf and on behalf of electors in the constituencies where she wishes to run. The provisions have no legitimate aim, are unnecessary in a democratic society and amount to indirect discrimination on grounds of socio-economic status, she claims.

Ms Godsil says she has proactively campaigned on social and economic issues, particularly personal debt and insolvency, and wants to campaign for people “bearing the brunt of the financial crisis in Ireland”.

She is also deeply concerned by the number of suicides occasioned by the recession, she said.

Richard Humphreys SC, with Dr Michael Forde SC, for Ms Godsil, told the President of the High Court, Mr Justice Nicholas Kearns, the matter was urgent as the closing date for nominations for the elections is May 3rd. His side had written to the State stating they intended to apply for directions for the hearing of the case, counsel said. Mr Justice Kearns listed the matter for Monday for the purpose of making directions for a hearing.

Ms Godsil, a divorced mother of two, describes herself as an Irish citizen, writer and undischarged bankrupt. She said she had no option but to file for bankruptcy last January because she had unsecured debts of about €1 million, no savings and was in receipt of social welfare payments with income of about €1,300 a month.


‘Tooth and nail’
She had “fought tooth and nail” to find a solution to her indebtedness, she said. Bank of Scotland last year repossessed her former family home, Raheengraney House in Co Wicklow, valued at €1.65 million in 2007 and with a mortgage of €800,000. She claims the bank “inexplicably” refused an offer of €500,000 which she obtained in 2011 after making a video which “went viral”. The property was repossessed and sold by the sheriff last month for €160,000, she said.

Godsil incurred financial difficulties from 2007 as a result of the financial crisis and the breakdown of her marriage, she said.

There were expensive commercial court and family law proceedings and, after their separation, her husband moved to the UK where he became bankrupt which had the effect of leaving the entire mortgage debt to her, she said.