Hogan yet to issue referendum report

Thu, Apr 5, 2012, 01:00

THE OFFICIAL report on last October’s two referendums has not been published yet, a month after it was received by Minister for the Environment Phil Hogan.

The report was delivered to the Minister on March 2nd by the Referendum Commission specifically established for that poll. The law provides that the commission is automatically dissolved a month after handing over its report. That happened on Monday of this week.

The Irish Times understands the report was due to be formally presented to the Cabinet at Tuesday’s weekly meeting but was not because Mr Hogan was in Brussels on Government business.

The report of the commission, chaired by retired High Court judge Bryan Mahon, is expected to echo some recommendations of earlier commissions, including that on the second Lisbon Treaty referendum in 2009, chaired by Mr Justice Frank Clarke.

In its report, published in March 2010, that commission repeated earlier reports by recommending the establishment of an independent body, such as an Electoral Commission.

It noted that such a body “would have ample time to prepare and promote public awareness of important constitutional amendments”, in which respect the forthcoming referendum to ratify the EU fiscal treaty is an obvious example. In any event, ample time clearly must be given to the Referendum Commission to enable it to explain and promote awareness of the referendum on the EU Constitution, it said.

Failing the setting up of an electoral commission, the report recommended amending the Referendum Act to allow the commission be established well in advance of the date on which the Referendum Bill is initiated in Dáil Éireann. Under the present legislation the Commission cannot be set up until the Bill is brought before the Dáil.

The 2009 Commission said: “It is essential that this happen as the Commission must operate in accordance with EU Directives in relation to procurement. It is also particularly necessary in the case of complex proposals such as the Referendum on the Lisbon Treaty.”

Despite the requests, no reforms have yet been enacted, although the Government has included the establishment of an electoral commission in its programme for government.

High Court judge Kevin Feeney is to chair the fiscal treaty referendum commission.