Government gave no thought to delaying vote

Taoiseach Enda Kenny said the Government gave no thought to delaying today’s children’s referendum following the Supreme Court decision which found the Coalition had misused public money during its information campaign.

Mr Kenny said the only way a referendum could be postponed was by the calling of a general election. Therefore, there was no question of delaying the vote.

“The Government has accepted in full the recommendations of the Supreme Court. The referendum is on [today] and I hope that people, in their very large numbers, go out and give a resounding yes to this,” said Mr Kenny.

The Supreme Court on Thursday found that “extensive passages” in the Government’s information booklet and on its website about the referendum did not conform to the 1995 McKenna judgment requiring that referenda be explained in an impartial way to the public.

The court said the Government “acted wrongfully in expending or arranging to expend public monies on the website, booklet, and advertisement in relation to the referendum... in a manner that was not fair, equal, or impartial”.

Transport Minister Leo Varadkar said the Government had received “wrong” legal advice.

That led to Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin claiming Fine Gael ministers were trying to hide behind Attorney General Máire Whelan, who was regarded as a Labour appointee.

“I’ve been struck by the rapidity of how Fine Gael ministers have attempted to put the AG centre stage,” he said. “This least contentious referendum has now created this Supreme Court judgment because of the behav-iour of the Government.”

Tánaiste and Labour leader Eamon Gilmore said the judgment showed Ireland had a healthy democracy. “It would be an extraordinary set of circumstances if we had a court system that simply went along with everything. From time to time, there will be decisions in the courts that don’t fall in the Government’s favour. I think, if anything, what that underlines is the independence of the judiciary for which I think we should all be very grateful.”

However, campaigners calling for a no vote argued the judgment demonstrated the Government’s bad faith and urged citizens to reject the proposed amendment.

Richard Greene of the Christian Solidarity Party said that if the Government could not be trusted with taxpayers’ money, it could not be trusted on a constitutional issue of such importance. Maria Mhic Mheanmain of Parents for Children said a no vote was “the only way you can protect your children”.

The Children’s Rights Alliance, which is urging a yes vote, urged people not to get “distracted” by the judgment. “Voting no will not punish the Government: it will punish children,” said Tanya Ward of the alliance.

Vote notes

Voting hours will be from 9am to 10pm.

At the polling station you may be asked to produce identification before you are given a ballot paper.

The following documents are acceptable for ID purposes:

* A passport

* A driving licence

* An employee identity card containing a photo

* A student identity card containing a photo

* A travel document containing name and photo

* A bank or savings or credit union book containing your address in the constituency

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