Supreme Court to hear local election candidate’s appeal

Former senator Dan Kiely lodged petition against Kerry council over questionable ballots

A local election candidate who is disputing the result of the Listowel area local elections to Kerry County Council is to have his case heard by five judges of the Supreme Court as a matter of urgency in the first such appeal in the history of the State.

The court said at least some of the issues raised had the potential to affect all elections after being asked whether the appeal should be heard by it or the new Court of Appeal.

Former Fianna Fáil senator and New York businessman Dan Kiely lost out by two votes to a Fine Gael candidate after running as an Independent in the Listowel area in May 2014.

Within days, Mr Kiely’s legal team, solicitor and Fianna Fáil councillor Paul O’Donoghue, and barrister Liz Murphy lodged a petition against Kerry County Council, which is responsible for the returning officers at the Circuit Court in Tralee, seeking the result be overturned and the votes recounted.


Spoilt votes

That action centred on the issue of an estimated 230 spoilt or questionable ballots, and the fact that Mr Kiely was not present when those votes were being considered.

At a two-day hearing in Tralee, Judge Carroll Moran dismissed the petition and the matter was then taken to the Supreme Court rather than the new Court of Appeal on the grounds of what Mr Kiely's counsel argued was urgent public interest.

In its ruling, Mr Justice Clarke – one of three judges in the matter, along with Mr Justice Charleton and Mr Justice McMenamin – said at least some of the legal issues raised had the potential to affect all local elections.

He also said there was urgency on two fronts. It was important that certainty be brought so Mr Kiely, if he succeeded, could take his seat as soon as possible; and so that sitting councillors could have certainty regarding their position.