Belfast Telegraph

Man loses bid to challenge 'unlawful' Government-DUP deal

A Northern Ireland resident and politician has lost a bid at the High Court in London to challenge the UK Government's controversial parliamentary deal with the Democratic Unionist Party.

Two judges rejected an application made on Thursday by Ciaran McClean to bring a judicial review of the legality of the £1 billion deal.

Co Tyrone father-of-three and mental health worker Mr McClean, an unsuccessful Westminster candidate for the Green Party NI in the general election, accuses the Government of "buying DUP votes" to hold on to power.

Mr McClean, who has raised thousands by crowdfunding for the legal action, was in court to hear Lord Justice Sales, sitting with Mr Justice Lewis, rule against him.

Lord Justice Sales said neither of the two grounds relied on by Mr McClean in his application was "properly arguable in a court of law".

He added: "Permission to apply for judicial review should be refused."

Mr McClean, who pursued the legal action as a private individual and not in conjunction with the Green Party, claimed the agreement breached the Bribery Act 2010 and described it as a "corrupt bargain".

During the hearing, his lawyer tried to persuade the two judges that he had an "arguable" case, which should be given a full airing in court at a later date.

Dominic Chambers QC told them that under the June 26 agreement the Government had "purchased" the political support of the DUP for £1 billion, "and that sum will come from public money".

He argued the agreement was made for an "unlawful purpose", and said that it was "on its face unlawful because it makes provision for the expenditure of public funds for party political advantage".

The application was contested by two defendants, the First Secretary of State and the Attorney General.

Their QC, James Eadie, submitted in written argument before the judges that the criminal law of bribery "plainly does not apply to a confidence and supply agreement between political parties".

He stated: "The allegation that the agreement entails public expenditure which is unlawful at common law and/or without parliamentary authority is misconceived in particular because the expenditure contemplated by the agreement will have appropriate parliamentary authorisation."

The parliamentary deal - branded "shabby and reckless" by Labour - saw the DUP's 10 MPs agree to support the Conservatives' minority government in a series of key Westminster votes.

In exchange, Northern Ireland's largest party secured £1 billion of new Treasury investment in the region.

Under the "confidence and supply" arrangement intended to last until 2022, the DUP guaranteed that its MPs will vote with the Government on the Queen's Speech, the Budget, and legislation relating to Brexit and national security.

The DUP has insisted the Westminster arrangement will provide stability for the UK at a time of uncertainty while offering much-needed investment for the whole of Northern Ireland.

A Government spokeswoman said: "We believe the claim is groundless and the court has agreed with that view.

"The Government is very clear that making funding available under the Agreement is lawful and is for the benefit of all parts of the community in Northern Ireland."

Mr McClean said in a statement: "It is of course disappointing to lose the case but through these proceedings we have established that the Money for Votes Agreement now requires the scrutiny of Parliament."

He said: "I now call on Members of Parliament to stand up for the people of the UK; to forestall what is clearly a corrupt bargain.

"Now MPs must scrutinise the spending that is put in front of them, to distil it out of the Estimates and make sure that it is not simply passed through on the nod."

He said: "I am not alone in finding this corrupt deal abhorrent. The devolved Governments are taking action and many others have joined the campaign."

Mr McClean thanked the "thousands of people who have supported us", adding: "I have spent my life seeking to shed light on the dark recesses of the Establishment and politics and I feel vindicated that this unseemly agreement has been closely examined in the full light of day."

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