O'Reilly v Minister for the Environment

JurisdictionIreland
Judgment Date01 January 1987
Date01 January 1987
Docket Number[1984 No. 3652P]
CourtHigh Court
O'Reilly v. Minister for the Environment
Patrick O'Reilly
Plaintiff
and
The Minister for the Environment and The Attorney General
Defendants
[1984 No. 3652P]

High Court

Constitution - Statute - Validity - Elections - Ballot papers - Listing of candidates' names in alphabetical order - Voting bias - Constitution - Fairness of procedure - Equality before the law - Right to vote and stand in elections - Electoral Act, 1963 (No. 19), s. 16 - Constitution of Ireland, 1937, Articles 16 and 40.

The plaintiff, who intended to present himself as a candidate in the local elections and afterwards for Dáil Éireann éireann, sought a declaration that the procedure provided by s. 16 of the Electoral Act, 1963, whereby candidates' names on ballot papers were listed in alphabetical order, offended Article 40 of the Constitution in failing to provide fairness of procedures or to hold the plaintiff equal before the law, and was therefore repugnant to the Constitution and invalid.

Held by Murphy J., in dismissing the claim, that such system of alphabetical listing significantly favoured those candidates who took alphabetical precedence and were placed higher up on the ballot paper, but that such bias for higher placed candidates reflected not a defect in the system itself but rather an indifference of the electorate, and accordingly the plaintiff had failed to establish that the legislation providing such system was unreasonable.

Draper v. The Attorney General [1984] I.R. 286 considered.

Cases mentioned in this report:—

The State (Nicolaou) v. An Bord Uchtála [1966] I.R. 567; (1966) 102 I.L.T.R. 1.

Quinn's Supermarket v. The Attorney General [1972] I.R. 1.

Murphy v. The Attorney General [1982] I.R. 241.

In re Haughey [1971] I.R. 217.

Glover v. B.L.N. Ltd. [1973] I.R. 388.

The State (Gleeson) v. Minister for Defence [1976] I.R. 280.

The Electoral (Amendment) Bill, 1983 [1984] I.R. 268; [1984] I.L.R.M. 539.

Draper v. The Attorney General [1984] I.R. 277; [1984] I.L.R.M. 643.

Plenary Summons.

Patrick O'Reilly issued a plenary summons on the 9th May, 1984, and a statement of claim on the 30th May, 1984, in which he stated that he was a businessman and retired policeman and a member of Fianna Fáil, a political party registered in the Register of Political Parties maintained by the Registrar of Political Parties pursuant to the provisions of s. 13 of the Electoral Act, 1963, and that he was suing the first defendant as a corporation sole and Minister of Government answerable for the operation of the Electoral Acts, 1923 to 1983; while the second defendant was sued in his capacity as the Law Officer of the State designated by the Constitution of Ireland.

With regard to the system of listing candidates' names alphabetically on ballot papers, as provided by s. 16 of the Electoral Act, 1963, the plaintiff claimed inter alia:—

  • 1. That such system violated Article 40, s. 3 guaranteeing basic fairness of procedures in maintaining an over-representation of Teachtaí Dála whose names began with letters at the start of the alphabet in comparison with names in the country at large;

  • 2. That Article 40, s. 3 was further violated by the failure to provide a system fair to all candidates by means of a random or rotating ballot;

  • 3. That such system violated Article 40, s. 1 in failing to hold the plaintiff with all other citizens equal before the law.

In addition the plaintiff contended that the right to vote and stand in elections (both local and general) was an unenumerated personal right under Article 40, s. 3 of the Constitution.

The plaintiff therefore sought:—

  • 1. A declaration that the provisions of s. 26 of the Electoral Act, 1923, (as inserted by s. 16 of the Electoral Act, 1963) were invalid having regard to the provisions of the Constitution;

  • 2. A declaration that the forms provided in s. 16, sub-s. 2 and Form 5A in Part II of the Second Schedule to the Electoral Act, 1963, were invalid having regard to the provisions of the Constitution;

  • 3. A declaration that s. 82 of the Electoral Act, 1963, and art. 30 of the Local Election Regulations, 1965, (S.I. 128 of 1965) were invalid having regard to the provisions of the Constitution insofar as Form L.E. 3 provided for a similar alphabetical listing of candidates in the local elections.

Article 16 of the Constitution of Ireland, 1937, provides:—

"1.

  • 1 Every citizen without distinction of sex who has reached the age of twenty-one years, and who is not placed under disability or incapacity by this Constitution or by law, shall be eligible for membership of Dáil Éireann éireann.

  • 2 Every citizen without distinction of sex who has reached the age of eighteen years who is not disqualified by law and complies with the provisions of the law relating to the election of members of Dáil Éireann éireann, shall have the right to vote at an election for members of Dáil Éireann éireann.

  • 3 No law shall be enacted placing any citizen under disability or incapacity for membership of Dáil Éireann éireann on the ground of sex or disqualifying any citizen from voting at an election for members of Dáil Éireann éireann on that ground.

  • 4 No voter may exercise more than one vote at an election for Dáil Éireann éireann, and the voting shall be by secret ballot.

2.

  • 1 Dáil Éireann éireann shall be composed of members who represent constituencies determined by law.

  • 2 The number of members shall from time to time be fixed by law, but the total number of members of Dáil Éireann éireann shall not be fixed at less than one member for each thirty thousand of the population, or at more than one member for each twenty thousand of the population.

  • 3 The ratio between the number of members to be elected at any time for each constituency and the population of each constituency, as ascertained at the last preceding census, shall, so far as it is practicable, be the same throughout the country.

  • 4 The Oireachtas shall revise the constituencies at least once in every twelve years, with due regard to changes in distribution of the population, but any alterations in the constituencies shall not take effect during the life of Dáil Éireann éireann sitting when such revision is made.

  • 5 The members shall be elected on the system of proportional representation by means of the single transferable vote.

  • 6 No law shall be enacted whereby the number of members to be returned for any constituency shall be less than three.

3.

  • 1 Dáil Éireann éireann shall be summoned and dissolved as provided by section 2 of Article 13 of this Constitution.

  • 2 A general election for members of Dáil...

To continue reading

Request your trial
3 cases
  • King v Minister for Environment
    • Ireland
    • High Court
    • December 19, 2003
    ...did not, of itself, oblige the State to tailor the law to suit their special needs. 87 In O'Reilly v. The Minister for Environment [1986] I.R. 143, the High Court rejected the plaintiff's challenge to the alphabetical ordering of candidates names on the ballot paper, holding that such orde......
  • Kelly v Minister for Environment
    • Ireland
    • High Court
    • May 16, 2002
    ...ACT 2001 S22(2)(b)(ii) ELECTORAL ACT 1997 S32(1) MCKENNA V AN TAOISEACH & ORS NO 2 1995 2 IR 10 O'REILLY V MIN FOR ENVIRONMENT & AG 1986 IR 143 COUGHLAN V BROADCASTING COMPLAINTS COMMISSION, RTE & AG 2000 3 IR 1 REDMOND V MIN FOR ENVIRONMENT, IRELAND & AG UNREP HERBERT 31/7/2001 ART 26 &......
  • Green v South Eastern Health Board
    • Ireland
    • High Court
    • December 11, 1987
    ...1984 ILRM 413 DPP V OLYMPIC AMUSEMENTS BUNDORAN 1987 ILRM 320 HAMILTON V HAMILTON 1982 IR 466, 1982 ILRM 290 O'REILLY V MIN ENVIRONMENT 1986 IR 143 CLARKE, STATE V ROCHE 1987 ILRM 309 BENNION ON STATUTORY INTERPRETATION SELANGOR UNITED RUBBER V CRADDOCK 1969 1 WLR 1773 CALCUL INTERNATIONAL ......

VLEX uses login cookies to provide you with a better browsing experience. If you click on 'Accept' or continue browsing this site we consider that you accept our cookie policy. ACCEPT