Ruling due on challenge to Government's information campaign

Thu, Nov 8, 2012, 00:00

The Supreme Court will rule today on an appeal against the High Court’s dismissal of a challenge to the Government’s €1.1 million spend on an information campaign concerning the children’s referendum.

The president of the High Court, Mr Justice Nicholas Kearns, last week dismissed the challenge brought by Mark McCrystal, Kilbarrack Road, Dublin.

Mr McCrystal had alleged the spending of public money on the Government’s information campaign breached the 1995 Supreme Court judgment in the McKenna case requiring referendums to be explained to the public impartially.

The High Court rejected any breach of the McKenna ruling and held the material used in the Government’s campaign was “neutral” and “balanced” with the “primary aim” of informing the public about the forthcoming referendum.

The appeal was heard by a five-judge Supreme Court comprising the Chief Justice, Mrs Justice Susan Denham, presiding, with Mr Justice John Murray, Mr Justice Adrian Hardiman, Mr Justice Nial Fennelly and Mr Justice Donal O’Donnell.

After the appeal concluded yesterday, the Chief Justice said the court was reserving its decision and would rule today.

In his appeal, Richard Humphreys SC, for Mr McCrystal, argued that the High Court had erred in holding that the material complained of was balanced and neutral.

If the High Court decision was allowed to stand, the principles as set out in the McKenna judgment “would be deprived of any substantial bite, reality and meaning as far as citizens are concerned”, Mr Humphreys argued.

The State, represented by David Hardiman SC, argued that the material must be looked at in the broadest of terms and did not breach the McKenna judgment in a manner that would render unconstitutional the Government’s spending of public money on an information campaign.