Amendment on inquiries in balance


REFERENDUMS:COUNTING IN the two referendums on amendments to the Constitution will take place today, following the conclusion of the vote in the presidential election.

It is likely that the proposed amendment to reduce judicial pay will be overwhelmingly carried. However, the acceptance of the amendment on giving power to the Houses of the Oireachtas to conduct inquiries into matters they might deem of public importance is far from certain.

Minister for Justice Alan Shatter said he was optimistic the referendums on judicial pay and Oireachtas inquiries will pass.

Tánaiste Eamon Gilmore said it was too early to say if the Government was in trouble over the Oireachtas investigations referendum.

“I don’t think any serious tallying has been done of the referendum ballot papers,” he said. “I think people at count centres had their eye on the election papers . . . so we really don’t know and won’t know until they are counted.”

Those conducting tallies on the outcome of the constitutional vote were left with the impression that the Oireachtas amendment had not received decisive support.

It was likely also that some voters were confused about the meaning of the amendments, as it seemed that some who voted in the presidential election did not vote at all in the referendums.

If the Oireachtas amendment is defeated it will be a reversal for the Coalition, especially Fine Gael in the context of its poor showing in the presidential election and byelection.

Even if this amendment is passed, it is unlikely to pass decisively, which will pose serious questions for the Government, given that there was no political resistance to it.

The Opposition parties in the Dáil supported it and the only opposition voiced was some early doubts by a handful of legal academics, followed by a campaign by the Irish Council for Civil Liberties launched only six days before the vote, and a statement of opposition from eight former attorneys general four days before.

Speaking at Dublin Castle, where results of the presidential and referendum polls are being co-ordinated, Mr Shatter said of the inquiries amendment that he thought it was important that “we have accountability in Irish life”.

“Many of you here have for years criticised the Irish parliament, the Seanad, the Dáil and the committee system because no one is ever held to account for anything,” he said. “Reports are published but there are never consequences. Nobody is identified as being responsible and everything that goes wrong in this country seems to be put down to systemic failures. We need to have the same accountability powers attached to every other parliament in the world.”