Fermanagh/South Tyrone election result challenge fails
A legal challenge against the election of Sinn Fein MP Michelle Gildernew in the Fermanagh and South Tyrone constituency has been rejected.
The case was brought by the unionist unity candidate Rodney Connor who lost by four votes after three recounts.
The Lord Chief Justice found that while there were some issues with how the counts were conducted, none would have produced a different result.
Mr Connor argued there had been breaches of election rules.
Following a three-day hearing in Dungannon last month, the number of disputed ballots was found to be three.
Delivering judgement at the High Court in Belfast on Friday, Lord Chief Justice Sir Declan Morgan pointed out that three extra votes remained unaccounted for.
However, he said: "Even if those votes were introduced in breach of the rules and if they had all been counted in favour of the first respondent their exclusion would still have given the first respondent (Ms Gildernew) a majority of one vote and the result would not have been affected.
"We therefore determine that Michelle Gildernew was duly elected as Member of Parliament for the constituency of Fermanagh and South Tyrone and shall certify our determination to the Speaker of the House of Commons accordingly."
Ms Gildernew said she felt vindicated by the result but said the case should never have been brought to court.
"It is high time that political unionism accepted the democratic will of the people," she said.
"They have elected me as their MP at the last three elections and I am immensely proud and honoured to represent all the people of the constituency."
Mr O'Connor said he welcomed the court's "carefully-considered analysis"which "certainly vindicates our action in taking the case".
"Unfortunately, at a time like this when our voices need to be heard where it matters, at Westminster, the people of Fermanagh and South Tyrone will continue to be unrepresented," he said.
"We will be taking the judgement away with us now and considering it and we will take appropriate action."