Tipperary vote will go ahead on Saturday after ‘special difficulty’ order signed

Polling was postponed after sudden death of Independent candidate Marese Skehan

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar said the Attorney General would submit advice about the General Election on Wednesday. File photograph: Gareth Chaney/Collins

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar said the Attorney General would submit advice about the General Election on Wednesday. File photograph: Gareth Chaney/Collins

 

Minister for Local Government Eoghan Murphy has signed a “special difficulty” order allowing the election in Tipperary to go ahead on Saturday.

Mr Murphy signed the order late on Wednesday night after extensive legal consultations.

The vote had been postponed after the sudden death of Independent candidate Marese Skehan.

Returning officer for the constituency James Seymour said postponement was required under the Electoral Act 1992.

It states that a returning officer must countermand a poll in the constituency where the death of a candidate has occurred and to arrange the holding of a fresh election.

Article 16.3.2 of the Constitution states that a general election must be held not later than 30 days after the dissolution of the Dáil.

But there is legal provision under Section 164 of the 1992 Electoral Act for the Minister in cases of “emergency or special difficulty” to issue an order to allow an election to proceed.

The Attorney General’s office worked late into Wednesday evening on the matter.

Independent candidate Marese Skehan from Thurles was found dead at her home on Monday.
Independent candidate Marese Skehan from Thurles was found dead at her home on Monday.

‘Unofficial notification’

Earlier, Mr Seymour said he had received “unofficial notification” to proceed with preparations for a Saturday poll and had re-called some 700 personnel to prepare for work on the five-seater constituency vote and count.

Mr Seymour said it would not be possible to remove Ms Skehan’s name from the poll or ballot paper and he was awaiting instruction about how that would be dealt with, “although I think the vast majority of voters in Tipperary will be aware” of the situation.

He added that they would have to deal with the issue if voters then decided to cast a ballot for Ms Skehan, whose funeral takes place on Thursday.

Labour Tipperary TD Alan Kelly welcomed the decision to proceed with voting in the constituency on Saturday along with the rest of the State.

Mr Kelly said it would have been wrong for the five Tipperary TDs not to have a vote for taoiseach and ceann comhairle when the Dáil resumed on February 20th.

The Labour Party took legal advice on the issue and Mr Kelly said “there was a strong constitutional case” to challenge postponement.

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar said on Wednesday that Attorney General Séamus Woulfe was to give the Government legal advice about whether the entire general election could be open to a legal challenge after the death of Ms Skehan.

On the prospect of a legal challenge to either polling going ahead in Tipperary on Saturday or a subsequent challenge to the entire general election, Mr Varadkar said the Electoral Act 1992 is “a law of unintended consequences” and those who wrote it “probably didn’t foresee this situation arising”.

Meanwhile, Independent TD Mattie McGrath was continuing his High Court action aimed at ensuring the Tipperary vote proceeds on Saturday.

The matter was deferred until Thursday afternoon.