Saturday 16 December 2017

Guide to two new referendums launched by Government

Sarah Stack

Sarah Stack

A guide on two referendums giving power to the Government to cut judges' pay, and the Oireachtas to hold inquiries, is being delivered to homes across Ireland.

The Referendum Commission launched a nationwide information campaign to explain the proposals ahead of polling on October 27.

Dr Bryan McMahon, chairman, urged voters to listen to debate for and against each of the Constitutional amendments over the next two and a half weeks.

"The Constitution was enacted by a vote of the Irish people, and only the Irish people can change it," he said.

"It is important to exercise your right to vote on the Constitution."

The guide highlights the main points of the referendums, including the current wording of the relevant parts of the Constitution and the proposed new wordings.

At present, the salary of sitting judges can not be reduced.

If passed, the referendum on judges' pay would allow for the pay of judges to be cut proportionately, if the pay of public servants is being or has been reduced in the public interest.

A Yes vote would also make members of the judiciary subject to the public service pension levy.

Meanwhile the referendum on Oireachtas Inquiries will give the Dail and Seanad power to conduct inquiries into matters of general public importance and, in doing so, to make findings of fact about any person's conduct.

A change to the Constitution would mean that the Dail and the Seanad, either separately or together, would have the power to conduct an inquiry into any matter that either or both consider to be a matter of general public importance. Legislation would be required to be introduced to set out the details of how such inquiries would take place.

However, TDs and Senators would have the power to determine the appropriate balance between the rights of people involved in any such inquiry and the requirements of the public interest.

The Referendum Commission has a €2.25m budget for its information campaign.

Dr McMahon, a retired High Court judge, said the role of the Commission - which is an independent body - was to explain the proposals in general terms and not to give reasons for or against.

Since the Referendum Act 2001 it is no longer required to outline arguments for and against specific referendum proposals.

"These are entirely separate proposals, and you can take a different view on each if that is what you decide," he added.

"The most important thing is to inform yourself and then use your vote."

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