Belfast Telegraph

Plan to keep election candidates' addresses private revealed as Cahill's legal battle put on hold

Mairia Cahill (Liam McBurney/PA)
Mairia Cahill (Liam McBurney/PA)

By Alan Erwin

A requirement for all local government election candidates to publish their home addresses is expected to be ended, the High Court heard today.

Lawyers for the Secretary of State confirmed cross-party support for plans to change the law once a new parliament is formed at Westminster.

The development led to a legal challenge by former SDLP councillor Mairia Cahill being put on hold.

Earlier this year Ms Cahill was forced to withdraw from the local elections over concerns for her personal safety.

She pulled out of standing to retain her seat on Lisburn and Castlereagh Council in the May 2 poll over the obligation to reveal her address.

Ms Cahill, an Irish Labour Party Senator before she joined the SDLP, believed it would put her family at risk.

In 2010 she came to public attention by claiming she had been raped as a teenager by a member of the IRA.

Waiving her right to anonymity, she alleged that the paramilitary organisation carried out its own inquiry and forced her to confront the man she accused of attacking her.

Judicial review proceedings were brought against the Secretary of State and the Chief Electoral Officer.

Ms Cahill contends that the requirement to publish candidates addresses in local council or European elections breaches her human rights.

Her case is being backed by the Northern Ireland Human Rights Commission.

Proceedings were listed today for a hearing to determine if the challenge can progress.

But Tony McGleenan QC, for the Secretary of State, told the court there is draft legislation which, if passed, will deal with the issues raised.

"It's an instrument that has cross-party support," he said.

"That would indicate there is at least a significant prospect that whenever parliament is returned after the General Election this will have a slot and be progressed."

Suggesting the case should be put back, Mr McGleenan stressed there are no local government elections looming.

Ms Cahill's barrister, Steven McQuitty, argued that leave to apply for judicial review should be granted in an attempt to ensure a resolution is reached.

"We are not talking about there being no detriment to the applicant. The detriment has already occurred, that's the sticking point," he insisted.

Adjourning proceedings until February, Mrs Justice Keegan said it would give time for the anticipated legislative process.

She pointed out: "It's unfortunate that the parliamentary timetable does not allow for this to take place at the moment, but I'm told that will be back on the agenda after the General Election."

Outside court Ms Cahill welcomed the indication given that the law should be changed.

"There should be an admission of the harm and detriment that has been done," she added.

"The obligation is on the Secretary of State to do something about it quickly."

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