Sinn Féin rejects Shatter's criticism of ruling


McKENNA JUDGMENT:SINN FÉIN has rejected a suggestion from Minister for Justice Alan Shatter that the McKenna judgment should be revisited in the courts because of the way it was being implemented.

Mr Shatter criticised the application of the judgment after a photocall by a committee of politicians promoting a Yes vote in the children’s rights referendum was cancelled by the Oireachtas. He said “stretching” the application of the judgment would violate freedom of expression.

Sinn Féin deputy leader Mary Lou McDonald said her party did not believe there should be any change to the 1995 Supreme Court ruling, which said taxpayers’ money could not be used to promote one side in a referendum.

“Referenda are one of the most important aspects of our democracy. They provide citizens with the opportunity to determine the shape and content of our Constitution,” she said.

“It is wholly inappropriate for taxpayers’ money to be used by either side of a referendum campaign. This is the case irrespective of the number of Dáil parties or deputies supporting a referendum proposal.”

Ms McDonald said parties that supported the proposed amendment should “use our own resources” not the taxpayers’.

Members of the cross-party Oireachtas health and children committee intend to hold an event tomorrow at which they “as individuals” will call for a Yes vote.

Following the cancellation on Monday of a formal photocall planned for yesterday by Oireachtas officials who feared a breach of the judgment, committee chairman Jerry Buttimer of Fine Gael said members of the committee intended to meet “as individuals” in the same place at the same time. The event was postponed yesterday while Mr Buttimer sought advice and rescheduled for tomorrow at 1.30pm.

“I’ve sought clarity and we’re not in breach of any regulations. I’m happy that the event can go ahead. This is a cross-party initiative to encourage a Yes vote,” Mr Buttimer said. He said he was satisfied taxpayers’ money would not be used to fund the event.

He said he had received advice from the Oireachtas legal adviser and the clerk of the Dáil yesterday.