Wednesday 29 January 2020

Challenge to spending of €1.1m in childrens referendum dismissed

Aodhan O'Faolain

THE President of the High Court has today dismissed a challenge to the spending by the Government of some €1.1m public monies on an allegedly one-sided information campaign about the Children's Referendum.

Engineer Mark McCrystal had claimed that the Government is using information contained in a booklet, webstie and advertising campaign designed, intended and likely to promote a particular outcome in the referendum on November 10th.

In his action, Mr McCrysal, of Kilbarrack Road, Dublin, claims the State is acting in breach of the 1995 Decision of the Supreme Court known as the McKenna judgment, requiring referenda to be explained to the public impartially. He claimed he has no objection to the State arguing for a Yes vote but it cannot use public money to do so.

In his action against the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs, the Government, Ireland and the Attorney General, he has sought a declaration the respondents are not entitled to use public money on a website, booklet and an advertising campaign concerning the referendum. He also wants an injunction requiring the State to remedy the situation.

None of the material being used by the Department of Children and Youth Affairs "clearly disregarded" the principles of the Supreme Court judgment in the McKenna case which requires referenda to be explained clearly and impartially, lawyers for the State said.

In his ruling Mr Justice Nicholas Kearns said he was satisfied to dismiss Mr McCrystal's action after holding that the material used in the governments campaign did not breached the McKenna judgment.

He also rejected Mr McCrystal's claims that the information put out by the Government advocated a yes vote. The President of the High Court said that he preferred expert evidence given by the State's sides that said the Government's campaign was designed to inform the public and encourage people to vote.

The Judge also awarded the state parties their costs of the action, after holding that the issues raised were not of exceptional public important that would warrant awarding Mr McCrystal his costs.

Following the ruling Mr McCrystal's legal team indicated that they will appeal the decision to the Supreme Court.

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