Friday 28 October 2016

Cast a 'Yes' vote in referendums

Published 23/10/2011 | 05:00

EVEN Charles Dickens's Victorian melodramas would struggle to match the soap opera provided by our soon-to-conclude presidential campaign. However, in spite of all the froth, gritty issues were raised via the 'stand by the republic' question.

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As Mr McGuinness prepares to flit back to his more natural homeland, Sinn Fein has certainly been forced to swallow the harsh truth that we are not some Potemkin Republic that can be levelled with one swing of a cleaned up Provisional boot.

When it comes to the suitability of the remaining contenders, we suggest the electorate should be guided by their willingness to 'stand by the republic' rather than the psychobabble which has dominated the public discourse.

In this regard, politicians such as Michael D Higgins and Gay Mitchell have, with varying degrees of dispatch, passed the test.

Mr Gallagher, in contrast, reminds us too much of the biblical distaste for those who are neither hot nor cold but merely 'lukewarm' and, to be frank, we have had too much of the politics of 'lukewarm' over recent decades. Private grit, not well-rehearsed displays of public empathy, are required for what is, in spite of all appearances to the contrary, an important constitutional office.

The presidential soap opera should not divert our attention from the two critical referendums on judicial pay and the proposal to enhance the inquisitorial powers of the Dail.

All we will say about the objections to the first issue is that our judiciary had the chance to 'stand by the republic' and failed spectacularly. When it comes to Dail inquiries, unwilling indeed should be the hand that writes a political cheque granting more powers to our politicians. However, the attempts to demean politics and, by implication, the electorate, by claiming politicians are unable to conduct inquiries, is nothing more than a specious piece of special pleading.

The objections may be dressed up in fine language and fancy sentiments, but the concern about moral panics, partisan political abuse and witch-hunts would be more impressive were it not for the suspicion that the real motive is to serve a dish of cold revenge to a Government whose reforming intent is far too enthusiastic for the taste of the bar lobby.

In truth, given the care with which our legal system, correctly, protects the many 'rights' of wealthy vested interests, many would also suggest it might be no bad thing if a bit more moral rigour was applied to the treatment of the safest set of white collar corporate criminals (allegedly) in the world.

The opposition from a legal system that was given the task of cutting out the canker of corruption, and instead created the fiscal pig-sty of our tribunals, to the Government's proposals have all of the weight of a scarecrow.

When it comes to the rights of the citizen, this referendum does not abolish the Constitution or the courts. The strongest argument against the current proposal is the success of private inquiries such as the Murphy Report. However, far too much has already gone on behind closed doors in this State. Citizens have a right to a public investigation into the destruction of the republic which, in passing, our legal system played no small role in facilitating. Vote 'Yes' to the referendum on Thursday and let us get on with it.

Sunday Independent

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