Sinn Féin's Doherty loses challenge over remarks on Irish ESM veto
SINN FÉIN TD Pearse Doherty yesterday lost a High Court challenge aimed at having the Referendum Commission withdraw remarks concerning Ireland’s veto over the European Stability Mechanism (ESM).
The Co Donegal TD’s action, which was opposed by the commission and the State, centred on two statements by the commission on whether Ireland had a veto over the ESM’s coming into being.
Mr Justice Gerard Hogan said the first statement, made by commission chairman Mr Justice Kevin Feeney at a press conference on May 3rd, could not be said to be misleading, or at this stage to be “clearly wrong”, as argued by Mr Doherty, or “likely to affect the result of the fiscal referendum”.
The judge said the three sides in the proceedings had advanced three slightly different arguments concerning Ireland’s ability to veto the ESM. The court would not express a view on any of these, other than to say there was room for debate on the issues.
The court must “remain strictly neutral” in terms of any political debate, the judge said.
However, the case had raised complex, important and novel issues concerning European, international and Irish constitutional law which, he suggested, might be considered by the European Court of Justice and the Irish Supreme Court.
It was accepted that the courts had the jurisdiction to interfere with a decision of the Referendum Commission. However, in this instance he was satisfied the commission had done nothing to promote one side or the other.
The Donegal South West TD brought the proceedings following comments by Mr Justice Feeney in response to a question about an Irish veto over the ESM. Ireland, said the commission chairman, had “already agreed to the establishment of the ESM”.
His statement added that the Dáil and Seanad had “yet to ratify the treaty”, and that “it was clear that a veto could have been exercised but Ireland has already agreed to the establishment of the ESM”.
Mr Doherty claimed this statement meant Ireland no longer had the ability to use its veto, a suggestion which he disputed. The comment had received a lot of attention in the media, he said, and it had become a matter of debate between the Yes and No sides in the referendum.
Mr Doherty claimed that a subsequent statement published on May 18th on the commission’s website gave a more accurate version of the State’s entitlement to veto the ESM.
This second statement which, it was submitted, clarified the situation, suggested it was still open to Ireland to use the veto, as Mr Doherty had argued. This may have aided the No side, but it had effectively been slipped in below the radar, it was claimed.