Voters urged not to punish Coalition
Minister for Transport Leo Varadkar has said the Government accepts responsibility for the Supreme Court finding that it's referendum information campaign was "not fair, equal or impartial" but appealed to voters not to "punish" it by voting No tomorrow.
Yesterday's judgment, which was unexpected, was seen as a significant setback to the Yes campaign, coming only 48 hours ahead of polling.
Mr Varadkar said the Government accepted the ruling and would examine the full reasoned judgment when it was delivered next month to consider “what mistakes were made”.
“The judgment relates solely to the Government’s information campaign – it doesn’t relate to the Yes campaign,” Mr Varadkar said of yesterday’s ruling.
"The referendum will go ahead tomorrow. The Supreme Court had the opportunity to injuct it and they decided not to.”
“All of the good reasons for voting Yes stand,” he insisted.
Mr Varadkar said the Government had not considered postponing the referendum and cited the Supreme Court decision which said it did not consider it "appropriate or necessary" to grant an injunction.
"This amendment is 20 years overdue, there are children in long-term foster care relying on us to vote Yes, there are also thousands of people who are victims of abuse who's voices aren't being heard, who's interests aren't paramount and don't blame them for a mistake made by the Government," Mr Varadkar said.
Speaking on RTÉ’s Morning Ireland, Mr Varadkar said the “Government is collectively responsible and if we’ve made a mistake, we accept that, but don’t take it out on the children,” he said.
Fianna Fáil leader Micheal Martin today accused the Government of displaying arrogance and inexperience in its approach to the children’s referendum
“I’m very, very disappointed. The Government was probably too arrogant in terms of its approach and didn’t read the signs well in my view.”
Solicitor Malachy Steenson said the court's judgment had created a constitutional crisis.
"We have moved from being a democracy to being a dictatorship because what role now does the Supreme Court have if the Government - having being found to have breached the law, to act unconstitutionally - two days before a referendum, when it was quite clear right throughout this campaign that what the Government was doing was in breach of [the] McKenna [judgment].
In a decision that was portrayed by the Opposition and No campaigners as an acute political embarrassment for the Government, the five-judge division of the court ruled yesterday it had “acted wrongfully” in spending €1.1 million of public money on a booklet that breached the McKenna judgment, which held public money should not be spent to espouse a particular side in a referendum campaign.
Voting on a number of islands off the west coast had already commenced ahead of yesterday's court decision.
In its 500-word ruling the Supreme Court said “extensive passages in the booklet and on the website” did not conform to the McKenna principles.