Referendum copies to be pulped after right to life error

Thu, Oct 25, 2012, 01:00

SOME 30,000 printed copies of the children’s rights referendum Bill will have to be pulped after a misprint suggested the proposed constitutional amendment related to the article protecting the right to life.

The copies erroneously stating an amendment to article 40 of the Constitution was proposed were sent to post offices across the country so they could be made available to members of the public.

Article 40 is of particular concern to anti-abortion campaigners because it contains a statement that the State acknowledges the right to life of the unborn.

The referendum actually proposes to insert article 42A, entitled Children, into the Constitution, aiming to protect children at risk and make it easier for the children of married parents to be adopted.

A spokeswoman for the Department of the Environment confirmed that about 30,000 copies of the Bill containing the misprint had been distributed after a “limited” print run took place.

“There was an issue and the printers will rectify the situation as soon as possible. The correct version of the Bill will be circulated to all post offices in the coming days,” she said.

The spokeswoman insisted there would be no cost to the taxpayer and said new versions would be produced “at the printer’s expense”.

She said the error was in the title page and the text of the Bill was correct, while the correct version was available to view on the Oireachtas website.

Fianna Fáil Senator Jim Walsh, a long-time “pro-life” campaigner, said he had been contacted by people who spotted the error. “It certainly caused alarm, particularly among people who would be concerned about amendments being made to article 40,” said Mr Walsh.

However, he accepted the error was an “honest mistake”.

Minister for Children Frances Fitzgerald has repeatedly said the referendum should not be linked to abortion because it is a “separate issue”.

The Referendum Act 1994 requires that copies of a Bill containing the proposal that is the subject of the referendum be made available “for inspection and purchase” by members of the public at post offices.

The referendum has the support of all parties in Leinster House.

The corrected version simply refers to an “amendment of the Constitution”.

A spokeswoman for the Oireachtas said the printed version in circulation was not an official Oireachtas version of the Bill. “The Department of the Environment procured it independently of the Oireachtas and because of that it did not go through the rigorous checking procedures which we normally conduct prior to sending a Bill to print,” she said.