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Friday 19 September 2014

Two women take court challenge to referendum result

Tim Healy

Published 20/11/2012 | 05:00

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TWO women have brought a High Court challenge aimed at overturning the result of the Children Referendum.

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The referendum was passed by a majority of 58pc to 41pc based on a 33.49pc turnout.

The first challenge is by Joanna Jordan, of St Kevin's Villas, Glenageary Road Upper, Dun Laoghaire, Co Dublin, who campaigned for a No vote.

The second petitioner is Nancy Kennelly, living at Abbot Close Nursing Home, Askeaton, Co Limerick, who voted Yes by post before the Supreme Court ruled some information distributed by the Government during the campaign was not impartial.

Mr Justice Iarfhlaith O'Neill yesterday directed that the State be placed on notice of the application and he returned the matter to next Tuesday.

The women claim the Government's use of public money to fund an unbalanced information campaign on the proposed amendment to the Constitution was wrongful conduct that materially affected the outcome of the referendum.

The Supreme Court in a ruling earlier this month upholding a challenge to the Government's campaign found "extensive passages" in the Government's information booklet and on its website did not conform to the 1995 Supreme Court judgment requiring referendums to be explained to the public in an impartial manner.

The material contained a misstatement as to the effect of the referendum, the court also found.

Petition

Yesterday, Mr Justice O'Neill agreed with the petitioners that they will need to have the text of the full Supreme Court judgment, to be delivered on December 11, before their application may be heard.

The women are also seeking leave to bring a parallel challenge to the constitutionality of those provisions of the referendum Act 1994, which require those seeking leave to bring a petition challenging the outcome of a referendum must first show a referendum was "affected materially" by an irregularity.

The women contend the onus should be on the entity that has committed any wrongful conduct to show that breach did not have a material effect.

The petition is also supported by an affidavit by journalist John Waters, who advocated a No vote in the referendum.

In her affidavit, Ms Jordan said she felt very strongly it would be appropriate to vote No. She was extremely concerned about the Government's information material and believed it was one-sided.

While campaigning for a No vote, it became apparent voters had a mistaken understanding of the impact of the referendum and believed, for example, in certain extreme cases, children could not be taken into care unless the amendment was passed, she said. It was obvious the Government information influenced people into voting Yes, she said.

In her affidavit, Ms Kennelly said in voting by post, she particularly relied on the information provided by the Government which appeared to her to be exclusively in favour of a yes vote. She later learned of the Supreme Court ruling when it was too late to change her vote.

Irish Independent

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