Government 'strayed beyond boundary' over children's referendum campaign


The Government has conceded the Supreme Court found it “strayed beyond the boundary of the provision of information to the electorate” during its children’s referendum campaign.

A statement from the Government said it was committed to working within the parameters of the judgment delivered yesterday in the conduct of future referendums. “The Government is carefully studying today’s Supreme Court judgment which clarifies how the Government can make information available to the electorate during a referendum,” it said.

“The court unanimously acknowledged that the principle enunciated in the McKenna judgment stands as firm as ever, but the modes through which information is conveyed are very different to those which were operating in 1995.

“The court has found that the Government, in attempting to fulfil this duty to inform the people, strayed beyond the boundary of the provision of information to the electorate.”

The court found the Government at all times acted in a “bona fide manner”, it added.

Independent TD Mattie McGrath, the only deputy to oppose the children’s rights referendum which had the support of all parties in Leinster House, described the development as “a most serious constitutional crisis” that should be debated urgently in the Dáil.

‘Landmark’ decision

Mr McGrath brought Dublin engineer Mark McCrystal, who took the challenge, to Leinster House yesterday, along with prominent No campaigner and former MEP Kathy Sinnott.

Mr McCrystal said “heads must roll” as a result of the “landmark” decision. “The Government is caught with their hand in the cookie jar. They’re caught in wrongdoing.”

Ms Sinnott said the result of the referendum was seriously contaminated.

Fianna Fáil spokesman on children Robert Troy said the judgment was “a severe indictment of an increasingly arrogant Cabinet”. He called on Minister for Children Frances Fitzgerald to “provide a full account to the Dáil of her actions in this matter”. Sinn Féin’s Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin said the judgment would provide clarity for referendums.

The litigant in the original McKenna case, former MEP Patricia McKenna, said the judgment upholds and protects the McKenna principles.