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Wednesday 1 October 2014

Money-wasting referendums shouldn't be called on a whim

Published 09/10/2013 | 05:36

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County Registar Padraig Burke with (right) John Flynn at the Referendum Count in the Killarney Sports and Leisure Centre, Killarney on Saturday.

A Eagarthóir, As our nation stumbles from crisis to further crisis and as many of its people live in fear of either impoverishment or dispossession, millions of euro have been expended on the holding of two referendums.

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The Constitution of the United States, which came into operation in 1789 has had a total of 27 amendments in the intervening 224 years. In Éire we had our 32nd and 33rd on October 4, 2013.

The written Constitution of a country is a very important document and is deserving of respect. Amendments should not be proposed at the egotistical whim of a Taoiseach. He most assuredly has far more important issues to resolve.

If Taoiseach Enda Kenny firmly believed that Seanad Éireann should be disbanded then he had a bounden duty to explain clearly, in reasoned debate, why he believed that to be so. Indeed if morality exists in politics then I contend that he had a moral obligation to justify his proposal to the voters. Had he had the gumption to do so he would at the very least have earned some grudging respect. For him to cower behind platitudes did a grave disservice to his government and to, what should be, the noble art of politics.

The low turnout of 39.2 per cent of eligible voters on October 4 raises a serious question about the matter of Constitutional amendments. Indeed the poll on the 'childrens' referendum was even lower.

I have long believed that for a referendum to be valid there should be a requirement for a valid poll of at least 50 per cent of the electorate. Such a requirement would cause political leaders to think long and hard before presenting a constitutional proposal to the voters. Such a proposal would compel politicians to have due respect for the document that was formulated to give expression to the hopes and aspirations of a people. It would in this instance have meant either the referendum on Seanad abolition would never have been proposed or that the Taoiseach and his government would have treated the process with respect and commitment.

I realise, and here's the rub, that my proposal would require a referendum to amend Article 47.1 of Bunreacht na h-Éireann. I believe, however, that it would be passed as the public would see it as a means of sparing them a repeat of the shambles that was the government's performance in the matter of the Seanad referendum.

Le Gach Dea Ghuí,

Michael Gleeson (Cllr),

Clasheen,

Cill Áirne.

Kerryman

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