Legal groups join call for no vote in referendum

There are growing calls for a no vote in the referendum on giving the Oireachtas powers to conduct inquiries.

The Bar Council, the Law Society and the Irish Council for Civil Liberties (ICCL) are among those urging people to reject the proposed 30th amendment to the Constitution, one of two proposed amendments being voted on next Thursday October 27 in parallel with the presidential election.

The ICCL said the proposed change to the Constitution, giving more powers of investigation to the Oireachtas, has been rushed through without sufficient debate and is effectively a power grab by the executive over the courts.

“The Referendum Commission leaflet dropped through letterboxes only a week before polling day and there has been no adequate public debate or consultation on these measures," said ICCL director Mark Kelly.

"This amendment would shift power from the courts to the Oireachtas, enabling parliamentary committees to tarnish the good name of people appearing before them, with no certainty that fair procedures would be observed.

"Oireachtas Committees do need to be overhauled and improved, but only after mature consideration, and in a way that strikes a far better balance between the public interest and the rights of the individual.

"Anyone who is concerned about the rule of law should vote no to this proposal next Thursday.”

Up to 12 Independent TDs and Senators are also urging people to vote no, saying the constitutional amendment risks giving politicians "too much power" and is being "rushed through".

The group is comprised of TDs Catherine Murphy, Shane Ross, Stephen Donnelly, Finian McGrath, Maureen O’Sullivan, John Halligan, Mick Wallace, Luke "Ming" Flanagan, Thomas Pringle, Tom Fleming, and senators John Crown and Ronán Mullen.

Former minister Mary O'Rourke has also come out strongly against the proposed amendment, which she dismissed as "pointless" and "useless".

However Taoiseach Enda Kenny said he believes it is appropriate that elected members of the Oireachtas carry out investigations in a quicker time and at a far less cost than what he called "endless and very costly" tribunals of inquiry.

"It should be possible - as it applies in every other parliament - to have inquires that are of public importance," Mr Kenny said.

"Where those elected by the people can call them in to ask questions that are in the public interest."

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