Doherty challenges Referendum Commission to withdraw remark

Doherty challenges Referendum Commission to withdraw remark

Sinn Féin TD Pearse Doherty has today brought a High Court challenge aimed at having the Referendum Commission withdraw remarks it made earlier this month in relation to whether Ireland has a veto over the European Stability Mechanism (ESM) from coming into being.

The High Court heard that Mr Doherty has brought proceedings arising out of comments made by the Chairperson of the Commission Mr Justice Kevin Feeney on May 3 last by stating in response to if Ireland could veto the ratification of the amendment to Article 136 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the EU that Ireland has "already agreed to the establishment of the ESM".

The statement added that it was clear that a veto could have been exercised but Ireland has already agreed to the establishment of the ESM.

This statement has become a matter of debate between the Yes and No sides in the Fiscal Stability Treaty Referendum, and the comment received a lot of attention in the media.

However in a subsequent statement on May 18 last another statement was issued that gave a more accurate version of the states entitlement not to ratify the amendment to Article 136.

In his action against the Commission and the Judge, Mr Doherty has asked the courts for a number of declarations including that the Commission acted ultra vires when it made a statement on May 3 last in relation to whether Ireland could veto the ratification of the European Council Decision amending Article 136 of the Treaty on the Function of the European Union, which was outside the subject matter of the referendum.

He wants the court to make a declaration that the Commission has breached its duty to give accurate and neutral information in relation to Thursday's referendum.

Mr Doherty is also seeking a declaration that the Commission erred in fact and law in making the statement, which was incorrect and misleading, and the statement should have been withdrawn in light of the interpretation put on the statement in the media.

He is further seeking a declaration that the respondents failed in to take any reasonable steps to draw attention and to ensure that the May 18 statement got any public prominence.

Moving the application, Richard Humphreys SC for the Mr Doherty told the court that it was the Commission's function to give out the facts on a neutral basis.

The May 3 statement, counsel said, has been used to the benefit of those campaigning for a Yes vote.

The May 18 statement by the Commission, which was more correct that the original version, Counsel said, went out on the commissions' twitter feed.

However, as it has less than 250 followers, counsel said that the amended statement only reached a tiny amount of the Irish population.

The application is before Mr Justice Gerard Hogan. It will resume in the afternoon.

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