Referendum information campaign funding challenged in court

A High Court challenge has been brought against the State's alleged use of more than €1.1m of public money on an information campaign about the forthcoming Children's Referendum.

Referendum information campaign funding challenged in court

A High Court challenge has been brought against the State's alleged use of more than €1.1m of public money on an information campaign about the forthcoming Children's Referendum.

The action has been brought by Mark McCrystal, who claims the Government has been using information in its information campaign that is not neutral and is designed, intended and likely to promote a particular outcome in the November 10 referendum.

Mr McCrystal has brought proceedings against the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs, The Government of Ireland, Ireland and the Attorney General.

He claims the State is in breach of a 1995 judgment by the Supreme Court, known as the McKenna decision, that held that referenda should be explained to the public in an impartial manner.

He says that he has no objection to the State arguing for a Yes vote, but only by means that do not involve the expenditure of public money.

In his action, Mr McCrystal is seeking a number of injunctions including one restraining the state from spending public money on websites and booklets for the purpose of promoting a particular result in the forthcoming referendum on the Thirty-First Amendment of the Constitution (Children) Bill 2012.

He also wants the Court to stop the State from representing information to the public which he claims is designed to promote a particular result in the November 10 referendum and stop the distributing the proposed Government booklet about the referendum until his action has been determined.

He is also seeking orders requiring the State to disclose to him the text of a proposed Government booklet, due to be posted to citizens about the referendum in the coming days.

Richard Humphreys SC for Mr McCrystal told the court his client was bringing the action arising out of the use of what he believed was one-sided material on what was a Government website.

A totoal of €1.1m was to be spent on the Government's information campaign, counsel added.

Counsel said that there was an urgency about the matter as distribution of the booklets about the referendum is due to start soon.

This evening at the High Court Mr Justice Roderick Murphy granted Mr McCrystal permission to serve notice of his proceedings against the State.

The Judge made the matter returnable to Tuesday of next week.

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