High Court hears referendum information challenge

Wed, Oct 31, 2012, 00:00

A CHALLENGE to the spending by the Government of some €1.1 million in public money on an allegedly one-sided information campaign about the forthcoming children’s referendum has opened before the High Court.

Mark McCrystal claims the Government is using information that is not neutral but is designed, intended and likely to promote a particular outcome in the referendum on November 10th.

A Government booklet being sent to voters is different to that of the Referendum Commission, contains serious inaccuracies and sets “an emotional persuading tone” to the referendum as “a pro-child affair” and glosses over difficulties arising from the amendment, he contends.

An engineer with an address at Kilbarrack Road, Dublin, Mr McCrystal claims the State is acting in breach of the 1995 Supreme Court judgment in the McKenna case requiring referendums to be explained to the public impartially.

While he has no objection to the State arguing for a Yes vote, it may only do so by means not involving expenditure of public money, he says.

He is seeking a declaration the State is not entitled to use public money on a website and booklet concerning the referendum on the 31st amendment of the Constitution (Children) Bill 2012.

He also wants an injunction requiring the State to remedy the situation. The action is against the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs, the Government, Ireland and the Attorney General.

The defendants, represented by David Hardiman SC and Frank Callanan SC, are opposing the action.

As part of its defence, the State would assert the language used in the booklets and website was objective, Mr Hardiman said. Mr McCrystal must show the material used is in clear disregard of the McKenna judgment but had failed to do so.

The case is being heard by the president of the High Court, Mr Justice Nicholas Kearns, who described it as extremely important and likely to ultimately go before the Supreme Court.

In another affidavit, journalist John Waters says he is opposed to the amendment because he believes it will subvert the architecture of family rights.

The hearing continues today.

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