THE HIGH COURT
RECORD NO. 2819P/2007
CATHERINE MURPHY and
THE MINISTER FOR THE ENVIRONMENT, HERITAGE AND LOCAL GOVERNMENT, IRELAND AND THE ATTORNEY GENERAL
7th June 2007
1. The High Court (Clarke J.) delivered reserved judgment in the action this 7th June 2007. The judgement was read out by the judge; the written copy will become available shortly. The following is a concise synopsis of the essential points of the judgement. (Readers should note that the Defendants denied that the publication of “The Principal Demographic Results” triggered any obligation on them to act.)
2. He declined to grant the Declarations sought by the Plaintiffs.
3. He found that, for the purpose of the Constitution, the relevant Census 2006 figures were ascertained at least by 29th March 2007, the day “The Principal Demographic Results” were published by the Central Statistics Office. Although the Preliminary Results from the CSO in 2006 were of a high order of accuracy they did not trigger the obligation to revise the constituencies.
4. However, the obligation on the Oireachtas to undertake the necessary revision is such that it could, and possibly should, indicate that the Oireachtas ought to commence the necessary work of revision based on the Preliminary Results and act urgently on the ascertainment of the “Principal Demographic Results”.
5. Although the Electoral Act 1997 and the system for appointing the Constituency Commission is reasonable it does not excuse the Oireachtas from addressing the need to urgently revise constituencies and to act in the light of that urgency as circumstances dictate.
6. The application of the Defendants for costs is adjourned to 22nd June 2007. The Court indicated that he did not view the merits in the case as being all on one side. The Plaintiffs stated they would be looking for their costs against the Defendants on 22nd June next.
Would I be correct in my interpretation of the judgment if I was to summarise the summary as follows:
1) Government right not to initiate a boundary review on the preliminary census figures and was correct to wait for final results.
1a) However the final results they needed to wait for weren’t the full census stats but the Principal Demographic Results which were available on the 29th March, which they had argued weren’t valid.
2) Some form of preliminary and preparatory work could and should have been done once the preliminary figures were available to provide quick inputs into this commission
3) Having some form of plan of some degree of cunning, based on the preliminary results, ready to implement once the Principal demographic results became available was… sensible/reasonable/required
4) While a having a mechanism in place to review the boundaries is what is required under the Act, there is no excuse for sitting on your hands waiting for an urgent matter to turn into a crisis.
My reading of that is that the plaintiffs lost the immediate battle but the victory of the Government side should not be seen as a triumphant overcoming of the opposition arguments more a lucky break due to the passage of time.
I await the full judgement in due course.
Daragh;confirmed. I propose to appoint Daragh O’Brien to summarise future High Court judgements pending receipt of written versions of same.
Thank you for this appointment.
Your readers may be interested in this post from my blog in April which has some similiarities in the thinking to what appears to be at the heart of the ruling above.