Government referendum site shut
The Government’s children’s referendum website has been closed down following yesterday’s Supreme Court ruling.
ChildrensReferendum.ie carried material contained in a booklet that the court decided breached the McKenna judgment, which held public money should not be spent to espouse a particular side in a referendum campaign.
The website was taken offline within shortly after the Supreme Court ruling but was then restored with most of its content removed. It has now been shut down.
A spokeswoman for the Department of Children said the website was first taken down for significant editing of the content arising from the ruling issued by the Supreme Court on November 8th.
"It was reinstated with limited content relating to the wording of the proposed amendment and the general scheme of the proposed Adoption (Amendment) Bill but was taken offline around 11:15am today."
"The decision to take the website offline was made by the Department, in consultation with Minister Fitzgerald, arising from contact received by the Chief State Solicitor's Office from the solicitors acting for Mark Mc Crystal.
"The decision was taken without prejudice to the Department's position on the points made by Mr McCrystal but so as to avoid any further controversy in relation to the matter."
The five-judge division of the court ruled it had “acted wrongfully” in spending €1.1 million of public money on a booklet that breached the McKenna judgment, which held public money should not be spent to espouse a particular side in a referendum campaign.
The judgment, which was unexpected, was seen as a significant setback to the Yes campaign, coming only 48 hours ahead of polling. Voting on a number of islands off the west coast had already commenced ahead of the decision.
In its 500-word ruling (it will deliver its full reasoned ruling on December 11th) the Supreme Court said “extensive passages in the booklet and on the website” did not conform to the McKenna principles.
The court also pointed to the Department of Children’s own admission there was an error or “mis-statement” in the booklet and website.
The solicitor for Mark McCrystal, the Dublin engineer who took the challenge, said the ruling was unanimous and criticised the Department of Children for its delay in correcting the error on its website.
Colm MacGeehin said the department was aware of the error on October 31st but did not correct its website until November 7th, on the second day of the Supreme Court hearing.