Thursday 25 December 2014

Cabinet stands by Attorney General after poll debacle

Fionnan Sheahan and Michael Brennan

Published 14/11/2012 | 05:00

THE Government is standing by its under-fire legal adviser in the wake of the children's referendum information-campaign debacle.

Taoiseach Enda Kenny is kicking to touch on the Coalition's response to the Supreme Court ruling that the Government's information campaign was biased.

His spokesman could not say if the court ruling had been raised within Cabinet during its discussion on the referendum result.

The Irish Independent understands that the Attorney General Maire Whelan did not brief the Cabinet. Ministers decided to wait until the Supreme Court issues its full detailed ruling in a month's time.

But a Fine Gael backbencher has fired the first warning shot over the Attorney General's role in the affair.

The Government spokesman and several ministers both publicly and privately expressed confidence in Ms Whelan.

Mr Kenny bizarrely claimed he didn't want to say anything that would prejudice the ruling – even though the Supreme Court has already ruled.

The Taoiseach insisted that his Government would not be taking any action until it received the full judgment of the Supreme Court next month into the €1.1m information campaign for the referendum.

"I want to wait until I see the detail of the Supreme Court's analysis," he said. "The court is entitled to that, without deference or speculation, idle or otherwise, about the reasons it gave its judgment of the nature and in the way it did."

Mr Kenny defended the Government's information campaign – which the court found was not fair, partial or balanced – by saying that it was designed to deal with "misinformation" in the children's referendum.

Bizarre

"After all, there were groups stating that there would be compulsory vaccination of children and the State might step in and prevent parents from bringing their children to Mass if that was their wish," he said.

Mr Kenny thanked all political parties for backing the Yes campaign and also the one in three of the electorate who voted.

But Fianna Fail leader Micheal Martin said there was no need for the Government to wait for a month because the Supreme Court had already said in its preliminary judgment that the Government's information campaign was in breach of the constitution.

"The Taoiseach should say 'sorry' to the people because his Government got this one wrong," he said.

Education Minister Ruairi Quinn expressed confidence in the Attorney General. He said the Cabinet would listen to the response of the Attorney General on the case.

"I do have every confidence in the Attorney General," he said.

Fine Gael Galway West TD Brian Walsh said there were now "serious questions" to be answered about the Attorney General's role in approving the content of the information booklets and website.

He added: "If she played an active role in the final sign-off, she would have to consider her position. The Supreme Court outcome probably gave people a reason to vote No," he said.

Irish Independent

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