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Challenge to same-sex marriage referendum fails

THE latest legal challenge by a County Clare man against the result of the same-sex marriage referendum has been dismissed by the High Court.

Gerry Walshe, an electrician, of Lisdeen, Kilkee asked the High Court to quash the Referendum Returning Officer’s decision to certify the result last August, which had the effect of formally confirming the outcome of the ballot.

In a ruling on Wednesday evening, Ms Justice Margaret Heneghan dismissed Walshe’s demands for several orders that would have frozen proposed new legislation currently before Dáil Éireann enabling
same-sex couples to marry.

The Judge described as misconceived Mr Walshe’s interpretation of Returning Officer Riona Ní Fhlanghaile’s statutory function to sign the certificate confirming the result.

The Judge also awarded the State its legal costs against Mr Walshe, an application Mr Walshe had opposed.

He also sought orders staying any further actions being taken in relation to the Same Sex Marriage referendum result until his case has been determined.

Mr Walshe, whose application was opposed, argued the decision to sign the referendum certificate while he had an earlier challenge in being and since dismissed by the Supreme Court was null and void.

Michael McDowell, SC, counsel for Ms Ní Fhlanghaile, Ireland and the Attorney General, urged the court to dismiss the application. Counsel also rejected Mr Walshe’s claims against the returning officer.

In his application for leave to judicially review the decision of the Returning Officer, Mr Walshe, who represented himself, alleged that Ms Ni Fhlanghaile acted outside of her powers and with bias.

Walshe claimed the certificate should not have been signed within a 28 day period in which he believed he had a window to appeal a refusal by the courts to allow him bring a separate legal challenge against the referendum result.

Mr Walshe’s application came after the Supreme Court last week refused to permit separate appeals by him and Maurice Lyons, from Callan, County Kilkenny, against the rejection of their challenges to the Yes result of the referendum.

The Supreme Court decided that neither Walshe nor Lyons had met the requirements for a
Supreme Court appeal as neither had raised the necessary legal point of general public importance and had raised no “points of substance.”

The court also ruled that the interests of justice did not require they be given permission to appeal the High Court’s earlier rejection of their case.

The Supreme Court had also noted that because no stay had been placed on the certificate of the
referendum result after a Court of Appeal decision, “very serious constitutional consequences” might have occurred had it decided to grant leave to appeal.

The High Court dismissed the proceedings by both men on June 5th.

The Court of Appeal upheld that decision on July 30th when it dismissed both men’s appeals against the High Court refusal and lifted a stay on the issuing of the final referendum certificate. They failed to have further appeals heard by the Supreme Court.

By Aodhan Ó Faolain

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