John Perry alleges ‘serious’ irregularities at FG convention

TD, who is seeking injunctions, secures court permission to serve notice on party

John Perry at the Four Courts. Photograph: Collins

John Perry at the Four Courts. Photograph: Collins

 

Fine Gael TD John Perry has alleged there were “serious and substantial” irregularities at a party selection convention last month which rendered its ouctome “fundamentally flawed”.

Those alleged irregularities included members being recorded as present and voting when they were not present, members who were present and voted but did not have their votes recorded and two members he never previously heard of having their names added, he claims.

He has challenged the outcome of the October 16th convention, in which he was not selected to contest the general election for Fine Gael in the Sligo Leitrim constituency, in High Court proceedings.

Among various claims, Mr Perry claims two members of the Coolaney branch were recorded as having voted when they had not in fact attended the convention. Another member, of the Sooey branch who was recorded as having voted, had told Mr Perry he was in fact attending a GAA conference at Croke Park and was not present, Mr Perry claims.

Two other members, of the Kilmacranny branch, had told him they had voted at the convention but were not recorded as having done so, he claims.

His lawyers were told in a letter on November 9th that the Fine Gael general secretary “would have observed some unortodoxy on the part of members and one of the candidates” but regarded the convention as having proceeded “not without a glitch or two, but reasonably satisfactorily nonethless”, he said.

Mr Perry said it is unclear what candidate was alleged to have engaged in “unorthodox activity” on the night but it was not him. He rejected any notion that he had engaged in any inappropriate behviour while voting was underway.

He alleges the party refused to take appropriate action because he had not made a complaint on the night to the returning officer.

He did not complain because he was unaware then “of the nature and extent of the irregularities” but, even if that were not the case, it was “incumbent” on Fine Gael to ensure its convention was properly conducted, he said.

‘Unorthodoxy’

The party’s approach was “unacceptable and offends not only basic principles of legality but also a basic tenet of democracy”.

“It is unclear what level of unorthodoxy the Fine Gael party is prepared to tolerate and overlook but it is clear that admitted irregularity is, in effect, being sanctioned by the stance taken,” he said. Any such irregularity in voting “is a matter of serious concern”.

Fine Gael had also written on November 19th describing as a “concerning development” the issues he had raised concerning two members who were recorded as having voted but who had not in fact voted, he said.

It was “entirely inapproriate” to suggest the onus to resolve these serious issues lay on him, Mr Perry said.

That letter also accepted that more people had voted at the convention than were eligible to vote, he said.  Given such factors, he had raised a fair issue to be tried in his action, he said.

The issues raised were “very serious”, relating not just to his personal rights but also the democratic entitlements of the electorate. It is “essential” a fresh convention be reconvened, he said.

Mr Perry alleges the figures suggest the total poll on the night of the convention was 686 and the number of members registered was 684.  That in itself was irregular because the poll cannot exceed the elctorate in any circumstances, he said.

He claims, based on his own computation of the total number of voters, that was 678 rather than 686.  While he did not accept that figure was genuine due to the alleged irregularities, the incongruity between those calculations was “a major cause of concern”.

For those and other reasons, he alleges the outcome of the convention, which meant he was not being permitted run for the party which he had represented without interruption since 1997, was “fundamentally flawed”.

The claims were made in an affidavit by Mr Perry put before the High Court when his lawyers sought permission to serve short notice on Fine Gael of his application for injunctions over the conduct of the convention.

Failed

Two candidates were selected by the October 16th Convention, Tony McLaughlin TD and former TD Gerry Reynolds. The convention recorded that Mr Perry had failed to be selected by a margin of 10 votes.

Mr Perry was in court on Thursday when Mr Justice Paul Gilligan granted liberty to serve short notice of the injunctions application of Fine Gael (United Ireland) and the National Executive Council of the party. The judge returned the matter to December 9th.

Mr Perry wants injunctions restraining Fine Gael, pending the outcome of his full action, ratifying any candidate to contest the forthcoming general election for the party in the Sligo-Leitrim constituency.

In his full action, he wants orders compelling Fine Gael to convene a selection convention “by way of a poll of eligible members” and in accordance with law and the constitution and rules of the party.

His counsel Micheal P O’Higgins SC told the court he wants various injunctions and there was a degree of urgency as it concerned a selection convention held on October 16th and the next stage in the election machinery.

Unless an injunction was granted, the next stage would be ratification of the candidates which would be triggered by the announcement of the general election, he said

Mr Perry was concerned that publication of any election material would put him at an electoral disadvantage, counsel said. The publication of such material was a matter outside his client’s control, counsel added.

The matter had been subject of considerable correspondence with a view to avoiding the necessity for proceedings but that had proven unsuccessful to date, Mr O’Higgins also said.

Among other claims in his affidavit, Mr Perry said he had learned two names were “informally and irregularly” added “by hand” to the register of voters in respect of the party’s Dromahair branch. The addition of those two names was purportedly approved by a member of the Fine Gael national executive council in a manner which does not record why their names are added, he claims.

The names of the two individuals were not members he ever previously heard of, despite being personally familiar with the membership of the Dromahair branch, he added.

At least two other persons were permitted vote when their branch, the Tubbercurry branch, had been removed from the list of eligible branches before the convention, he claims.