This morning I have submitted a formal complaint to the Franchise Section of the Department of the Environment and the Election Returning Officer for Galway East/West, Ms. Marian Chambers Higgins, regarding the name used by Fianna Fail TD, Éamon Ó Cuív in the recent General Election.
Shortly after the election I heard media reports that Éamon Ó Cuív had used the name Cuív, Éamon Ó on his ballot paper, which, I understand, provides a valuable advantage as the name appears near the top of the ballot paper.
After several phone calls over several days I eventually got to speak to the Returning Officer for Galway West, Marian Chambers Higgins.
Ms. Chambers Higgins refused to discuss the matter with me except to say the following:
He (Éamon Ó Cuív) went to the High Court years ago, long before my time to be able to put himself down as Cuív, Éamon Ó and my understanding is that his name is Cuív, Éamon Ó.
It’s important that Ms. Chambers Higgins has certainty that the name submitted to her for inclusion on a ballot paper is the correct name because The Electoral Act, 1992, section 52 (3) (a), is crystal clear on the matter (my emphasis).
(3) The returning officer shall object to the name of a candidate in a nomination paper if such name:
(a) Is not a name by which the candidate is commonly known.
With the exception of the recent election I have never heard Éamon Ó Cuív, or anybody else, use the name Cuív, Éamon Ó.
Indeed, during my inquiries regarding this matter Éamon Ó Cuív addressed himself to me, in both the spoken and written word, as Éamon Ó Cuív.
It is therefore puzzling, to say the least, that an election Returning Officer, who must make the final decision on the veracity of candidates for election, is of the understanding that Éamon Ó Cuív’s name is actually Cuív, Éamon Ó.
Initially, I had difficulty contacting Mr. Ó Cuív regarding the matter but when I informed an official at his constituency office that I was considering making a formal complaint Mr. Ó Cuív replied by telephone (leaving a message as I was on another call at the time) and email within an hour.
In addition to a great deal of technical detail regarding the use of Irish names on ballot papers Mr. Ó Cuív also informed me that a case taken in the Circuit Court against Galway County Council found that the only logical index of Irish language names was by the surname proper thus allowing him to use the name Cuív, Éamon Ó on election ballot papers.
I contacted Galway County Council with the intention of obtaining a copy of the Circuit Court judgement mentioned by Éamon Ó Cuív and/or the High Court judgement mentioned by Ms. Chambers Higgins.
This judgement, I felt, would be very important as it appears to be in opposition to the above mentioned section of the Electoral Act, 1992.
An official at Galway County Council, after researching the matter, informed me that no such case was ever taken.