Friday, May 28, 2010

Dreary steeples: 1

Mark McGregor has a neat reflection on Slugger O'Toole.

There, he does a think about the attempt by the "agreed" Unionist in Fermanagh and South Tyrone to have Michelle Gildernew's election (by four votes) overturned by the Courts. He notes that we went the same way in 2001, when James Cooper (for the UUP) failed. McGregor has the pertinent obiter dicta of Justice Carswell. All worth the trip: a Michelin 3-stars.

Mid Ulster, 1955

When Malcolm went into that thread, nobody had recollected the Mid Ulster shenanigans after the 1955 election.

In a straight fight, Tom Mitchell saw off Charles Beattie by 806 votes (with near on 60,000 ballots on the table). Mitchell was in chokey in Belfast: he had been done for the IRA raid on Omagh barracks. So, the Commons voted 197-63 to unseat him as a felon, giving the election to the also-ran. Not end of story.

The defeated Beattie, now enstooled as MP, was an Enniskillen auctioneer and general Unionist busybody. As a newly-minted MP he turned up and voted for the Tory government on numerous occasions. He seems never to have made a maiden speech: in Anglo-Tory terms, that must make him the perfect Ulster Unionist.

Alas! Beattie had been for many years a Unionist nominee on a whole splatter of appeal tribunals, which paid expenses. This trifle was then raised in the Commons. So, over the Christmas period of 1955-6, the wheels of parliamentary administration were grinding slow, but their pernicious smallness adjudged Beattie to have held “offices of profit under the Crown”. He, too, got the heave-ho.

Malcolm can assure all-comers the whole shebang merely reinforced the impression in Dublin that Northern Ireland was a very, very racketty joint.

What fun! What mirth! Now for Dick Martin!

Those who relish MPs’ elections being overturned on judicial appeal might care to refer to Richard Martin (1754-1834), MP for Galway (and one of the founders of the RSPCA).

He became popularised as “Humanity Dick” (let's have no Sid-the-Sexist snarfing, please!) after “Martin’s Act” of 1822, the world’s first legislation penalizing cruelty to animals.

When he was challenged on why he devoted so much time and energy to the cause, he responded: ‘Sir, an ox cannot hold a pistol!’ (there is an element of threat in that: his other moniker was “Hairtrigger Dick”, earned on the basis of fighting around a hundred duels, with both sword or pistol).

His significance here is that his re-election in 1826 was overturned on the ground of “illegal intimidation” (legal intimidation being, presumably, part and parcel of the business of politicking). Having lost his parliamentary immunity, he escaped his creditors by fleeing to Boulogne.

And, in another post, Malcolm will address the neighbouring constituency. Sphere: Related Content

1 comment:

yourcousin said...

This kind of post is why I still love this site. Always a new wrinkle so to speak.

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