Court sets aside Kerry Council vote electing members to local group

The decision, taken in November 2020, was challenged by Independent County Councillor Charlie Farrelly, who claimed that the procedure used in respect of the nomination of two members to the board of the North, East, and West Kerry Development Partnership was flawed and should be set aside.
Court sets aside Kerry Council vote electing members to local group

High court reporters

A decision taken by Kerry County Council to select two elected councillors to the board of a local community development partnership has been set aside by the High Court.

The decision, taken in November 2020, was challenged by Independent County Councillor Charlie Farrelly, who claimed that the procedure used in respect of the nomination of two members to the board of the North, East, and West Kerry Development Partnership was flawed and should be set aside.

In her judgement Ms Justice Niamh Hyland said she was setting aside the decision to elect two other councillors to the partnership's board.

The judge said she was satisfied that the local authority had not used the correct voting procedures, required under the 2001 Local Government Act, to select the two councillors.

The judge said that "requirements of legal certainty and transparency dictate that, where a process identified as applicable to an appointment of members to a body is deemed unlawful, the decision resulting from that process cannot be treated as lawful."

This is so, she added, even though the steps taken in this case mirrored the steps in a different process otherwise available to the Council.

Cllr Farrelly, who represents the Castleisland Local Electoral Area in Kerry, claimed that in November 2020 the Council was to select two councillors to go on the Partnership's board.

Rural development

The partnership is a community initiative involved in rural development, set up under the EU Leader programme.

The candidates, he claimed, should have been selected by the elected members using what is known as the Group Voting System, a method designed to ensure minority bloc representation on certain bodies.

He claimed  this process involves elected members forming groups to nominate board members to the partnership, with the members of a successful nominating group being excluded from successive groups.

He claimed that it was unlawful not to use the Group Voting System, and the Council should not have used individual voting to select the two nominees.

In this process Cllr Farrelly, who was represented in the proceedings by Elizabeth Murphy Bl, claimed that no groups were formed.

This had the effect of having the same majority of councillors on Kerry County Council successively appointed both members to the partnership's board and the minority member's votes being rendered ineffective.

He claimed that the Council officials argued that it was entitled to select members for the board in the manner it did. However, Cllr Farrelly disputed this.

Arising out of the vote Cllr Farrelly sued Kerry County Council and the Partnership seeking various declarations and orders quashing the council's purported appointment last November of two members to the partnership's board, and that at its next the council select two members to go on the board.

Voting procedure

The action was opposed by the Council who denied that the procedure used was incorrect and urged the court not to disturb the outcome of the vote.

The judge noted in her judgement that the applicant had been nominated for appointment to the board but was unsuccessful in two rounds of voting.

Having accessed the evidence raised in Cllr Farrelly's action the judge said she was satisfied that the voting procedure used in this situation was not one that was open to the Council.

The Council she added, had not used the correct procedure as required, but in this case had relied on a different procedure.

For those reasons, the decision must be set aside, the judge said.

The judge said she will hear submissions as to whether the matter requires to be remitted back to the Council.

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