Dáil should 'reflect on court ruling'
Taoiseach Enda Kenny has said the Dáil should reflect on the full detail of the Supreme Court judgement that the Government breached the law in its information campaign on the children’s referendum when it is published next month.
He said it should also take into account the McKenna judgement and future referendums.
“The bottom line here is that the people have changed the Constitution,’’ he added. “They have gone out and voted in a clear majority to give children protection and recognition and the Government will now move on to introduce the necessary supplementary legislation to give effect to that.’’
Mr Kenny said no court had set out specifically the parameters, confines and meaning of the McKenna judgement.
He said Minister for Children Frances Fitzgerald had followed a very clear line in dealing with the requirement to have information given to people to deal with misinformation.
“After all, there were groups saying that forced vaccination would be put on children,’’ he added.
The Taoiseach was replying in the Dáil this afternoon to Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin who said the Yes vote had been “stained somewhat by the very stark and blunt judgement of the Supreme Court’’.
It had made it very clear, he said, that the Government had not only dismissed the McKenna judgement but was in breach of the Constitution in its own promotional campaign.
The Government’s success, with 58 per cent voting in favour of the amendment, was marred by a Supreme Court ruling that passages in its information booklet and website breached rules to ensure a fair, impartial and equal playing field.
While steps are now being taken to amend the Constitution, which will for the first time recognise the rights of children, a potential court challenge to the Yes vote hangs over the Government.
Following the Supreme Court ruling last Thursday, Ms Fitzgerald said the Government had acted in good faith in compiling the booklet and worked with best intentions to ensure it complied with the McKenna judgment to be fair and impartial.
It also consulted the Attorney General, who has a responsibility to sign off on wording used in Government information campaigns.
Last week, Transport Minister Leo Varadkar said there should be no question over Ms Whelan’s future, saying the Government was collectively responsible.
Meanwhile, a Fine Gael TD has been the first to challenge Ms Whelan over her role in the compiling of the Government’s information booklet.
Galway West TD Brian Walsh said the state lawyer had serious questions to answer.
The referendum, which was held on Saturday, saw one of the lowest voter turnouts in history with just over a third of the electorate casting a ballot.
The 42 per cent No vote was higher than the Government expected. Despite this, it has maintained its majority of 58 per cent was an
overwhelming endorsement from the public to pass the children’s rights reforms, describing Sunday when the votes were counted as a historic day.
Additional reporting by PA