Bid to bring new challenge to same-sex vote result rejected

Gerry Walshe sought leave to seek judicial review to quash decision confirming result

A High Court judge has rejected an application for permission to bring a new legal challenge against the result of the same-sex marriage referendum.

The latest challenge was brought by Gerry Walshe, an electrician, of Lisdeen, Co Clare.

He sought leave to apply for a judicial review to quash the decision of the referendum returning officer to issue and sign the final referendum certificate confirming the results of the marriage referendum.

He said she signed the certificate while he was still within time to appeal his earlier challenge to the Supreme Court.


That challenge was dismissed by the Supreme Court last week, along with an appeal from Maurice Lyons, from Callan, Co Kilkenny.

Mr Walshe said on Wednesday the Supreme Court had been tethered because State organs had already progressed the referendum amendment.

‘Serious consequences’

He quoted the Supreme Court’s ruling that said “very serious constitutional consequences” might have occurred had it decided to grant leave to appeal.

He argued that he was allowed 28 days to seek leave to appeal to the Supreme Court after the lower courts had rejected his case against the marriage referendum.

He said the referendum returning officer had acted outside her powers in signing the referendum certificate on August 27th, before the period had expired. She had knowledge of his application and acted with a lack of good faith in endorsing the certificate.

No petition brought

Michael McDowell SC, for returning officer Ríona Ní Fhlanghaile, said under the Referendum Act 1994, a petition had to be brought to the High Court to challenge a referendum certificate. No petition had ever been brought; Mr Walshe had not been given leave to bring it, and it was that decision he had appealed to the Supreme Court.

He said the Master of the High Court had duly certified, on August 25th, that no petition had been brought and, once he did, the returning officer had a clear statutory duty to comply with the act and sign the referendum certificate.

Mr McDowell also said Mr Walshe had been in correspondence with the returning officer and had been notified, through the Chief State Solicitor’s office, that she was about to sign the certificate.

He said Mr Walshe seemed to believe everyone owed him a duty to keep the status quo in existence while he pondered his appeal for 28 days.

There was no law that stated the maximum limits must elapse before the will of the people came into effect.

Statutory duty

Ms Justice Margaret Heneghan said, having read the papers in the case, the court was satisfied the returning officer did not act outside her powers or with bias or bad faith. She had carried out her statutory duty. The judge said Mr Walshe’s claim was “misconceived” and she denied his application.

She also awarded costs against him.

Legislation to allow same-sex couples to marry is currently before the Oireachtas.

Fiona Gartland

Fiona Gartland

Fiona Gartland is a crime writer and former Irish Times journalist