Minister insists Coalition tried to comply with rules
Reaction:Minister for Children Frances Fitzgerald has insisted the Government sought to comply with the McKenna judgment when compiling information for distribution to the public on the children’s rights referendum.
She was speaking in the Seanad yesterday after the Supreme Court ruled that information in Government leaflets and on a dedicated website did not conform to the landmark 1995 judgment designed to ensure fairness in referendum debates.
Ms Fitzgerald said “very considerable efforts” were taken by her department, which produced the information booklet and published the www.childrensreferendum.iewebsite. “I must stress that my department acted in good faith and with the best intentions to ensure compliance with the McKenna principles in the material.”
The office of the Attorney General had been consulted for legal advice throughout the process, she said.
She fully acknowledged the Supreme Court had found that not all of the material published complied with the McKenna principles.
The challenge to the Government’s €1.1 million information campaign was brought by Dublin engineer Mark McCrystal, who was represented by Richard Humphreys SC.
Tánaiste Eamon Gilmore yesterday confirmed Mr Humphreys was a Labour councillor who provided legal advice to the party.
“The Labour Party does not influence in any way, nor would we wish to influence in any way, the work of any member of the Labour Party who’s a lawyer,” Mr Gilmore said.
He said the Government would attempt to recall literature that had been distributed.
Mr Gilmore said the judiciary was independent and the Government accepted the Supreme Court ruling.
“The Supreme Court has made a decision. The Government respects that decision and is complying with it. The website concerned has been changed to reflect that and the material is no longer being circulated and in so far as we can physically do so we will be recalling it.”
Fianna Fáil’s spokesman on children Robert Troy said the Government’s “failure to ensure fairness and impartiality” was “frustrating and disappointing”.
Sinn Féin spokesman Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin said a “resounding” Yes vote was more crucial than ever.