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Wednesday 26 July 2017

Enda Kenny calls for people to vote yes in two referendums

Brian Hutton

Taoiseach Enda Kenny and Tanaiste Eamon Gilmore have urged people to vote yes in two referendums this week on judges pay and Oireachtas investigations.

But civil liberties campaigners have called on voters to reject the proposals to beef up the power of TDs and Senators in parliamentary inquiries.

Speaking from Brussels, Mr Kenny said backing Thursday's referendum to allow the government to cut judges salaries in line with other public servants would ensure fairness.

"If approved by the Irish people, this provision will ensure that no part of the public service is excluded from pay cuts that apply to other public servants," he said. "This provision in no way impinges on the independence of the judiciary in the exercise of their functions."

Mr Gilmore urged support for the constitutional amendment on Oireachtas powers of inquiry, which he said would help the country break from vested interests and examine important public interest issues.

"Moreover, such inquiries will cost the Irish taxpayer significantly less than the tribunals of the past," he added.

Mr Gilmore dismissed suggestions that politicians are not capable of carrying out such inquiries, arguing the investigations would be governed by law and high procedural hurdles.

"There is no case that people will not be allowed to vindicate their rights before the courts in this process," he said.

However, the Irish Council for Civil Liberties (ICCL) Association, which is calling for a No vote, said there was a rising tide of opposition to strengthening Oireachtas powers.

Mark Kelly, ICCL director, pointed out the Government's referendum wording was published only a week before polling day.

"We are confident that, as more people read their Referendum Commission booklet and think through the implications of this power grab by the Oireachtas, support for the Government's proposals will continue to plummet," he said.

"To those whose lives are too busy to allow them to reflect on major Constitutional reform in less than a week, our message is simple: if in doubt, vote No."

A Behaviour and Attitudes poll published today showed 76% in favour of beefing up Oireachtas inquiry powers, with 18% against the proposals, and 6% still undecided.

An overwhelming majority of 87% backed proposals to allow judges pay be cut, with 8% against and 5% undecided.

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