Connor asks High Court for election recount

Published: 3 Jun 2010 16:000 comments

Unionist unity candidate Rodney Connor, who lost the election for the Fermanagh/south Tyrone seat by four votes, has lodged an election petition in the High Court asking for a full recount of the votes cast in the constituency last month.

Share this image

While the Lord Chief Justice has indicated he would like to see the case dealt with before the end of this month, Solicitor for Mr. Connor, Mr. Raymond Ferguson has indicated that the preparation Mr. Connor's team must undertake in advance of any hearing could take time. "I am admitting the possibility that might turn out to be a bigger task than anticipated," he said.

That task is to scrutinise the 40,000-plus votes cast in the poll across Fermanagh and south Tyrone which are currently held in an undisclosed office in Belfast.

"We would be scrutinising these for ourselves with a view to satisfying the judge these discrepancies that appear to us that occurred did in fact occur. That is one of the procedures that have to be gone through before the trial starts," Mr. Ferguson said.

When the case gets to court, if Mr. Connor convinces the two High Court judges that his arguments have merit, he will be asking for a scrutiny of the votes and a full recount. He is also asking for a determination that Ms. Gildernew was not duly elected.

The crux of his petition is an alleged 36 invalid votes. "We have information that suggests that there could be as many as 36 invalid votes included in the count. The difference in the last count was four. . . if there are invalid votes and if they are identified, we would wish them to be removed from the count and a recount to take place on the basis of valid votes," said Mr. Ferguson.

"If there are votes that have been included that do not match {ballot paper] stubs, those votes should be excluded from the count," he said.

Four counts took place overnight on May 6 and the next day on May 7 at the electoral count at Omagh Leisure Centre last month. The final result was 21,300 to Mr. Connor and 21.304 to Sinn Fein's Michelle Gildernew, who was declared elected as MP.

Mr. Connor's petition alleges breaches of rules. It alleges that before counting the votes the Deputy Returning Officer, Mr. Martin Fox failed to reconcile the number of ballot papers in the ballot boxes with the ballot papers shown in the ballot paper account completed by the presiding officers at the polling stations. It also alleges that Mr. Fox failed to appropriately identify those ballot papers and failed to reject them. It is further alleged that he failed to determine the reasons for the variance between the number of ballot papers.

Mr. Connor was accompanied by Mr. Tom Elliott, UUP MLA and Mrs. Arlene Foster, DUP MLA in Belfast when the legal papers were lodged.

Mr. Elliott said: "The decision to take the issue of the General Election result to the High Court is not one that was made lightly. The reality is that having studied everything that happened at the count in Omagh, and having had correspondence with the electoral office, I feel that there are irregularities which we simply cannot allow to go unchallenged. As democrats, we cannot, and will not, sit on the sidelines and watch republicans or anyone else win a seat by default. The democratic process demands that no uncertainty should be allowed to remain about any result, and so it is vital that we press ahead with the election petition."

As to costs, he said: "If we win, it will not cost us anything. If we lose, I am assuming it could cost £30,000. It depends how long it goes on. . . Clearly the two main parties will be backing it up. We would be looking for some other sponsors as well in the community."

Mr. Connor said: "The election petition will allow the opportunity for the Court to determine what the people of Fermanagh and South Tyrone decided on May 6. Three weeks after the election it still remains impossible to know who won the most votes on Election Day. This is a disgraceful situation.

"In one of the closest elections in United Kingdom Parliamentary history it is totally unacceptable that the counting was cut short before a consistent result was obtained. Not one of the four separate counts gave the same result and the entire counting process was littered with irregularities and procedural defects, which undoubtedly had an impact on the number of votes for each candidate. . .All I ask is that once and for all every valid vote is counted with the care and consideration which should have been paramount from the outset, so that for the first time with absolute certainty the outcome of the election can be known".

MP for Fermanagh and South Tyrone Ms. Michelle Gildernew said: "Essentially this is a legal matter between Rodney Connor and the Electoral Office. As far as I am concerned the people of Fermanagh and South Tyrone have spoken and returned me as their MP. That is democracy and in the first past the post system that means the person with the most votes is returned as the winner. I appreciate Mr Connor may find that hard to accept but that is the rules we were all playing by. Politics has already moved on from the election and I am now totally focused on the real issues affecting people lives, principal amongst them protecting front-line services from the cuts being imposed by Mr Connor's allies in the British Tories."

It is understood that one of the judges is Lord Chief Justice Sir Declan Morgan. As a barrister in 2001, he represented Ulster Unionist James Cooper, the last time that an election petition was lodged in Northern Ireland, when Mr Cooper unsuccessfully challenged Ms Michelle Gildernew's victory by 53 votes.

Even if the case is heard by the end of this month, it may be some weeks before the judges issue their findings.

Jump to first paragraph.

Comments

comments powered by Disqus

Get more stories from our Roundup section

19 Apr 2014 17:10

Mallards gain another crucial point in safety battle

Ballinamallard took another step closer to safety as they claimed a share of the spoils at home to Ballymena today.

Social:

19 Apr 2014 15:00 • Meadhbh Monahan

Leading anti-fracker believes local protesters are on the right track

Founder of Frack Free Sussex and Britain and Ireland Frack Free, Vanessa Vine visited Enniskillen last Saturday to discuss the local anti-fracking campaign.

Social: Comments0 comments

19 Apr 2014 13:00 • Editorial Department

Road rage car chase for boxing champ who turned away from possible fight

A boxing champion shied away from a fight with a man over twice his age only to become embroiled in a road rage incident.

Social:

19 Apr 2014 11:00 • Editorial Department

Milk suppliers assured that Society is debt free

The forty-eight former Fivemiletown milk suppliers have been assured that Fivemiletown and Brookeborough Co-operative and Agricultural Dairy Society (the Society) is debt free and that they will “continue to be paid”.

Social: Comments0 comments

19 Apr 2014 09:00 • Rodney Edwards

Elliott votes against bill on powers for new Super Councils

ULSTER Unionist MLA Tom Elliott has joined his party colleagues in voting against the Local Government Bill, the legislation that sets out the powers of the new Super Councils. Mr. Elliott spoke of his concern around community planning ahead of the amalgamation which will see 26 Councils merge into 11, including the amalgamation of Fermanagh District Council and Omagh District Council

Social:

19 Apr 2014 08:30

Police name motorcyclist killed in Fivemiletown crash

Police can confirm that a male motorcyclist has died following a two vehicle road traffic collision on the Belfast Road in Fivemiletown last night, Friday 18 April.

Social:

18 Apr 2014 22:00 • Rodney Edwards

Orange audit: 93 per cent believe Catholics ‘suspicious’ of order

A MAJOR survey into the Orange Order in Fermanagh has found that 92.8 per cent of people who took part in the project believe Catholics are “suspicious” of the organisation.

Social: Comments0 comments

18 Apr 2014 19:00

'We have a big eight days ahead of us' - Anderson

By 5pm on Saturday April 26 all the decisions will be made in the Danske Bank Premiership and Championship One. The destination of the title will be decided and who is going down or which teams are facing a play off will be known.

Social:

18 Apr 2014 17:00 • Rodney Edwards

Enterprise Minister disagrees with keeping Aventas Group all locally owned

ENTERPRISE Minister Arlene Foster says she cannot support the view of local political representatives, including her DUP colleague Maurice Morrow, that the Aventas Group in Derrylin must remain exclusively locally owned.

Social: Comments0 comments

18 Apr 2014 15:00 • Editorial Department

Tweets of the Week - did you make it?

Charlie Lawson @charlie_lawson1 I’m reliably informed that my alter ego and constant companion is to return, so he is. Must contact The Home Secretary to confirm.

Social: Comments0 comments

18 Apr 2014 13:00 • Editorial Department

Foster vows to take school merger to the Assembly

“I am not powerless, I will fight this,” declares Stormont Minister Arlene Foster as she reflects on the fall-out over the proposal by the Western Education and Library Board to amalgamate Portora Royal School with Collegiate Grammar School.

Social: Comments0 comments

18 Apr 2014 11:00 • Lily Dane

Those were the days: Miss Derryclavin Selected

This image “Miss Derryclavin” Selected was featured in The Impartial Reporter on April 16, 1964.

Social: Comments0 comments

18 Apr 2014 08:30

Depression is an illness, mourners told at Kenny Andrews funeral

MOURNERS at the funeral of Brookeborough man Kenneth Andrews who died unexpectedly last week were told that the 47-year-old had been fighting a private battle with depression.

Social:

17 Apr 2014 19:00 • Rodney Edwards

#fermanaghspake This Week is...

‘I’m not half well’

Social: Comments0 comments

17 Apr 2014 18:06 • Rodney Edwards

Would-be Unionist politician admits Catholic Facebook question was 'badly worded'

A would-be politician seeking a seat in the new Fermanagh and Omagh Council for the Ulster Unionist Party has defended himself for a second time following comments he made on Facebook.

Social:

17 Apr 2014 17:01

Fermanagh's 'different breed' that sets the Orange Standard

Let me get the amateur sociology out of the way first: ‘Out-group homogeneity’. It describes a bias that any group of people are prone to have.

Social:

17 Apr 2014 16:30

Why are you 'punishing a good school'?

The proposed Development Proposal to close both Enniskillen Collegiate School and Portora Royal School and open a new school on a split site, will go before the members of the Western Education and Library Board on May 8 for approval.

Social:

17 Apr 2014 15:57

Meeting exposed WELB's 'weak process and weak argument' says Collegiate head

THE Collegiate Grammar School’s consultation meeting on its proposed amalgamation with Portora Royal exposed the Western Education Library Board’s (WELB) “weak process and weak argument”, according to principal, Elizabeth Armstrong.

Social:

17 Apr 2014 15:14

Collegiate parents walk out after rudeness of WELB official

PARENTS of Collegiate Grammar School have accused Western Education Library Board (WELB) officials of hiding their personal vested interest in a proposal that would see the school merge with Portora Royal next year.

Social:

17 Apr 2014 14:29 • Meadhbh Monahan

Angry homeowners duped by rogue driveway worker caled Roadstone

HOMEOWNERS in Enniskillen are “disgusted” with workmen who took hundreds of pounds for cleaning their driveways, but never finished the job.

Social: