Legal Cheek

Struck out: Case challenging Tory/DUP deal falls at first hurdle

The grounds for judicial review weren’t ‘properly arguable in a court of law’

A legal challenge claiming the Conservatives’ deal with the Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) breaches the Good Friday Agreement (GFA) and the Bribery Act 2010 has not made it past its first hearing. It seems the courts were unwilling to get involved with what was, let’s face it, a case of inherently political subject matter.

The case, spearheaded by Green Party politician Ciaran McClean, sought to challenge what the claimant called the “votes for money” Tory/DUP agreement in the Divisional Court.

Readers will recall in the weeks following the 8 June snap election result, the DUP signed a deal to form a majority government with the Conservatives. As part of that deal, the DUP gained £1 billion in funding — £33 per taxpayer — for hospitals, roads and schools in Northern Ireland in return for DUP support in key parliamentary votes. Today’s claim was issued on 10 July, just two weeks after the deal with struck.

The basis of the claim was that any agreement between May and the DUP was unlawful because it’s a violation of the rigorous impartiality demanded by the GFA and undermines British independence.

It’s difficult to deny GFA’s status as a crucial political building block of peace in Northern Ireland, but today Lord Justice Sales and Mr Justice Lewis simply were not convinced by McClean’s legal arguments.

Sitting in courtroom 1 of the Royal Courts of Justice, the application for permission to apply for judicial review was today refused. Sales said neither ground relied upon by McClean was “properly arguable in a court of law”.

While McClean has fallen at the first hurdle, it’s not for lack of a good lawyer. McClean instructed David Greene, senior partner at Edwin Coe LLP, to help him fight the case. As for his advocates, McClean was represented in court by Dominic Chambers QC (Maitland Chambers), John Cooper QC (25 Bedford Row) and Edward Granger (Maitland Chambers). He also managed to crowdfund more than £90,000 to take the case to court.