A High Court case arising out of an alleged failure to count votes in elections for positions on the Irish Countrywomen’s Association’s national executive has been adjourned to facilitate a mediation of the dispute.
The action was initiated by Patricia Madden, who joined the ICA 39 years ago.
A barrister of St Mobhi Road, Glasnevin, Dublin, she claims the organisation breached its constitution when it failed to count ballots cast by its membership in advance of its AGM last May. She claims the ICA should have declared the winners of the election at the AGM for positions on its national executive board including national president, national secretary and national treasurer for a term of office from 2018 to 2021.
Up to 30 other members have been given permission by the court to be joined as co-plaintiffs to the action.
Represented by Frank Beatty SC and Brendan Kirwan BL, the ICA opposes various injunctions sought by Ms Madden but accepts there are issues in relation to the election which need to be addressed and has proposed holding fresh elections for the positions.
When the matter returned before Ms Justice Úna Ní Raifeartaigh at the High Court on Tuesday, the judge suggested the dispute go to mediation, saying that was in the interests of all involved. Mediation was preferable to the court deciding the issues and a hearing could lead to bitterness within the association, she added.
After talks, Ms Madden told the judge the sides had agreed the dispute should go to mediation, wanted that process to commence as soon as possible and were seeking to have a mediator appointed.
The judge welcomed the fact the parties had agreed to mediate the dispute and hoped the mediation is successful. The case was adjourned to early July to facilitate the mediation.
In her action, Ms Madden seeks various injunctions, including restraining the ICA filling any vacancies on its board, until the dispute has been decided. She said she brought the action so the votes can be counted and the winners declared. Ms Madden has also brought separate, but related, proceedings for injunctions restraining the ICA destroying or interfering with ballot papers returned for the 2018 ICA national elections. The ICA has undertaken not to destroy the ballots.