High Court to rule on Sinn Féin’s referendum body query

A High Court judge is set to rule this morning on whether controversial remarks made by the chairman of the Referendum Commission should be withdrawn.

The outcome of the hastily arranged case will have no effect on the holding of tomorrow’s referendum, but will it judge on whether the commission made comments that were biased against those who opposed the fiscal treaty.

Yesterday, Sinn Féin TD Pearse Doherty, the party’s finance spokesman, triggered the late-night sitting of the court after asking for a ruling on the comments.

The spat related to an explanation given by chair of the commission, Mr Justice Kevin Feeney, early in the campaign.

Mr Doherty said this explanation had implied that Ireland could not reject the establishment of the new European €500bn bailout fund, the European Stability Mechanism.

In the High Court, Mr Justice Gerard Hogan had rejected the first two parts of Sinn Féin’s application and criticised the late stage at which it brought the case.

However, he heard arguments from both sides late last night on the impact and interpretation of Mr Justice Feeney’s comments on Ireland’s status regarding the ESM.

Mr Justice Hogan said that, given the importance of the issue, he would rule at 10.30am today.

The commission had opposed Mr Doherty’s application. Michael Collins SC, for the commission, told the court the application was “flawed and misconceived”.

Mr Doherty’s application focused on comments made by Mr Justice Feeney on May 3 when he said Ireland had “already agreed to the establishment of the ESM”.

The statement added: “The Dáil and Seanad had yet to rectify the treaty” and “it was clear that a veto could have been exercised but Ireland has already agreed to the establishment of the ESM”.

In an affidavit, Mr Doherty says he is not challenging the holding of the referendum or favouring any side, but rather is concerned with the conduct of the commission in relation to the comments made earlier this month.

At his party’s final campaign press event, Mr Adams denied the action was a last-minute political stunt.

The commission had expressed its views about the veto at its first press conference on May 3. Asked why Sinn Féin had left it so late to challenge those views, Mr Adams said the party had taken issue with them at the time.

It was when the commission “repeated” its views last week, and others in turn began repeating them “ad nauseam”, that Sinn Féin took legal advice, he said. “Our legal advice was to go,” said Mr Adams.


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