Challenge against the co-option of Cllr. fails

A High Court challenge against the co-option of a Donegal County Council seat has failed.

A High Court challenge against the co-option of a Donegal County Council seat has failed.

In a decision given yesterday ,Justice Elizabeth Dunne found against the claim in a judicial review that the co-option of Cllr. Michael McBride to replace former councillor Jimmy Harte was unlawful.

The challenge had been taken by Dessie Shiels, a Letterkenny solicitor and a candidate in the 2011 general election.

Cllr. McBride was co-opted onto the council in May 2011 following the appointment to the Seanad of Senator Harte.

Mr. Shiels claimed that Cllr. McBride was a Labour candidate or nominee and as Senator Harte had been elected as an independent candidate the co-option was illegal. He cited media reports that referred to Cllr. McBride’s membership of the Labour Party at the time of his co-option.

Judge Dunne found that there was no evidence that Mr. McBride was a member or candidate of the Labour Party when he was co-opted.

She said Mr. McBride had only learnt on the morning of his co-option on May 30th that under the Local Government Act he had to be a non-party candidate to fill the seat. Mr. McBride had made the assumption that he had to be a member of the Labour Party to be co-opted and that some of the comments made by him in the media could be understood in that context, she said.

Donegal County Council welcomed the decision in the case. In a statement released yesterday the council said the judgement “upheld the reserved decision taken by Donegal County Council in the co-option of Mr. Michael McBride to fill the seat vacated by Senator Jimmy Harte on his election to Seanad Eireann”.

Cllr. McBride said he was pleased that he was now able to get on with doing the job he was elected to do. “I spent a year and a half with this hanging over me and to be honest about it it was not the nicest situation to be in and I am just looking forward to getting it off my back and getting on with the job in hand,” he said.