Irish Supreme Court refuses leave to appeal in abortion referendum challenge

The Irish Supreme Court has dismissed an application for leave to appeal a legal challenge to the outcome of the abortion referendum stating that the legal test to do so had not been satisfied.

Ms Joanna Jordon brought an application before the High Court seeking leave to present a referendum petition as per the Referendum Act 1994, challenging the validity of the result of the abortion referendum. Ms Jordan was contesting Government involvement in the Yes campaign as well as alleged irregularities in the voting system.

The High Court rejected this application, stating that Ms Jordan’s challenge did not meet the criteria necessary for the court to issue a referendum petition. This decision was then appealed to the Court of Appeal, which dismissed the appeal and upheld the High Court ruling.

On foot of these decisions, the Supreme Court refused to grant leave on the basis there were no grounds to hear an appeal of the Court of Appeal’s decision.

Upon considering the arguments put forward by Ms Jordan, the Supreme Court needed to be satisfied that there were ‘‘stateable grounds’’ to hear the appeal. The Court concluded that no such grounds existed, as the issues raised were not of general public importance and were not in line with the Referendum Act.

The Supreme Court based its stance on the conclusions of the two lower courts, agreeing that members of the Government are entitled to engage in debate on referendums as there is nothing in the Constitution preventing such participation.

In relation to the allegations of irregularities in voter registration, the Supreme Court acknowledged that both the High Court and Court of Appeal had applied the correct test in assessing the evidence, and agreed with their assessment that the evidence presented by Ms Jordan was ‘‘flimsy’’. On the whole, the Court described Ms Jordan’s claims as a “frustration of the democratic process”.

The Court also concluded that Ms Jordan had no stateable argument against the High Court and Court of Appeal for the order for costs that was made against her.

Click here for the Supreme Court determination.



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