Friday 20 January 2017

Coalition failed to nominate overseers for referendums

JEROME REILLY and PAUL MELIA

Published 30/10/2011 | 05:00

THE Government parties of Fine Gael and Labour were left red-faced and embarrassed last night over the two constitutional referendums.

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As the vote on the constitutional referendum on the Oireachtas hung on a knife- edge, it emerged that neither government party bothered to nominate representatives to oversee the results.

Any organisation may apply to the Referendum Commission to be an approved body if they have at least 300 members and have an interest in the referendum.

All registered political parties may also become bodies, but must seek permission from the commission.

Only Fianna Fail, through Sean Dorgan from the party executive; the Christian Democrats (Daniel Desmond) and the Christian Solidarity Party (Paul O'Loughlin) sought and received approval from the commission.

It meant that the Government that put forward the referendum was not in a position to challenge or query any of the ballot papers in the two referendums in the case of a dispute.

Yesterday, Public Expenditure and Reform Minister Brendan Howlin acknowledged there was some confusion with the ballot paper arising from the lack of detail about the amendment.

The minister said the Government had to learn from that to have a better engagement to ensure absolute clarity.

He said there was need for a parliamentary system to find the truth and expose wrongdoing where it exists and to hold public servants to account in a proper and democratic way.

But the failure of the Government to seek permission to become 'approved bodies' from the Referendum Commission, which would allow them to query if ballot papers are properly marked, is being regarded as another gaffe during a referendum campaign marked by lack of clarity.

Even on election day, many voters expressed confusion as to what the referendum on the Oireachtas actually meant.

Sunday Independent

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