Referendum likely to be in November

Fri, Sep 14, 2012, 01:00

THE FORTHCOMING children’s rights referendum is likely to be held in early November, according to informed sources, to avoid any entanglement with the public debate leading up to the budget on December 5th.

“There’s no set date as yet,” official sources told The Irish Times. The details, including the wording, are likely to be finalised by the Cabinet in the next two weeks. Dates in the first fortnight of November are under consideration.

The Government will set aside an as-yet-unspecified amount for an information campaign, which is intended to respect the McKenna judgment whereby public funds cannot be used to promote one side or the other in a referendum.

“I hope we’re not just going to be given a wording at the last minute with little time for discussion. We also need to discuss whether the desired aims could be achieved instead through legislation,” Independent Senator Ronan Mullen said.

Minister for Children and Youth Affairs Frances Fitzgerald said yesterday: “From my point of view, there is no delay. We’re absolutely on track with the promise that was given: that we would have the referendum in the autumn.”

She said Fine Gael and Labour would be taking “a joint approach” to the campaign for a Yes vote.

Asked if she had been in contact with Opposition parties on the matter, she said: “I have had a number of informal briefings across the political spectrum.”

She added: “My wording isn’t based on other wordings, it’s based on the principles that the all-party committee agreed and it’s a translation from that into robust constitutional language.”

There had been close liaison with Attorney General Máire Whelan SC: “I have done a huge amount of work with the Attorney General and we also had the subcommittee of Cabinet working over the summer.”

Adoption legislation was being prepared in parallel.

“This referendum is about looking at issues of treating children equally, making sure children’s rights, children’s views, children’s best interests are to the fore when decisions are being made about them,”the Minister said.