Government’s referendum plans ‘gimmickry nonsense’ – McDowell

Independent Senator dismisses plans to extend votes to 16-year-olds as ‘rubbish’

 Senator Michael McDowell said the Government should get on with governing the country under the present Constitution.  Photograph: Cyril Byrne

Senator Michael McDowell said the Government should get on with governing the country under the present Constitution. Photograph: Cyril Byrne

 

Independent Senator Michael McDowell has sharply criticised the Government’s plans to hold at least seven referendums over the next two years.

“We need less of this gimmickry nonsense,’’ he said.

Mr McDowell, a former minister for justice and attorney general, said the Government should get on with governing the country under the present Constitution.

“There is no provision in the present Constitution, perhaps with the exception of the Eight Amendment, which we are dealing with, that is impeding the proper governance of this country,’’ he added.

He told the Seanad the Constitution was not some kind of message board for a Government that floated ideas to distract people from the real issues.

“The Constitution is the basic set of rules by which this society is operated,’’ he added.

Political correctness

Mr McDowell said he was sure he would offend colleagues in the House, who were on the side of political correctness, when describing giving votes to people aged 16 years as rubbish.

“It is illegal to sell a person of 16 years a scratch card for the national lottery,’’ he added.

“If they cannot go into a public house, if they are incapable of entering into a contract in law, and if the asylum seekers of 16 years are counted as children, the idea of giving children a vote is nonsense.’’

Mr McDowell predicted that if put to the people, the proposal would be defeated in the same way as the “foolish idea’’ of reducing the age of presidential candidates from 35 years to 21 years was rejected.

He said to give the judiciary any function whatsoever in determining the allocation of resources between housing and health was “probably one of the most stupid ideas that has ever been canvassed by anybody’’.

The judiciary was not suited to making those decisions, he added.