Sunday 11 December 2016

Criticism after gardaí appear in referendum photocall

Published 20/04/2015 | 02:30

Former Supreme Court Judge, Mrs Justice Catherine McGuinness with Garda Kerrie Sullivan and young cross-party political supporters at Pearse Street Garda Station
Former Supreme Court Judge, Mrs Justice Catherine McGuinness with Garda Kerrie Sullivan and young cross-party political supporters at Pearse Street Garda Station

The Yes Equality campaign was plunged into controversy after gardaí took part in a photocall organised to urge voters to turn out for the referendum.

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A spokesperson for the Garda Press Office said they were "looking into the matter" after individual uniformed gardai took part in an event outside Pearse Street Garda Station organised by campaigners for the 'Yes' side.

Tiernan Brady of the Yes Equality campaign stressed that the gardaí were there merely to encourage citizens to ensure that they were on the register - regardless of how they intended to vote.

He said it was not a political move.

"The gardai are here emphasising civic duty and the importance of voter turn out, no matter what the vote," he said.

However, 'No' advocate, Senator Ronan Mullen said he "would have thought it would be inappropriate for State agencies to get involved in a campaign on either side.

"Given the Garda role as an impartial force and their administration role in elections, it seems very strange indeed," he said.

He called on the Garda authorities to "clarify how this happened and to reassure that it won't happen again".

Keith Mills of the Mothers and Fathers Matter organisation, condemned the involvement of gardaí, saying it was a matter of concern.

"My view would be that it is absolutely essential that the gardaí would be seen to be completely neutral and avoid politics at all times," he said.

Mr Mills said that already there has been a situation during the campaign whereby the impartiality of former presidents has been broken by Mary McAleese.

"It would be a very sad state of affairs if the politicians and the elite are leaning on the gardaí to favour their position in the referendum," he said, adding that this would be "an attack on our democracy".

"It would be a very sad day for Irish democracy if the gardai were being dragged in to favour one side of the vote," he said.

Mr Mills said there should be a clear line between advocating pthat eople vote and advocating people vote in a particular way.

"The question is whether police should be involved at all in advocating people to vote," he added.

The photocall at Pearse Street Garda Station was also attended by retired Supreme Court Judge Catherine McGuinness.

She told the Irish Independent that she, too, was present to urge people to ensure that they were on the voting register.

However she also added that she "made no secret" of the fact that she is backing a 'Yes' vote in the forthcoming marriage referendum on May 22.

"I'm not pretending I'm not on the 'Yes' side," she said.

Irish Independent

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