Wednesday 22 January 2020

How error in leaflets broke the principles of fairness

In its preliminary ruling, the Supreme Court said there was a "material mis-statement" on the Government's website and in its booklet, which broke the McKenna impartiality principles.

What was the inaccuracy?

The Government stated: "It will continue to be the case that the power given by the Constitution in this area can only be used by the State in a very well-defined circumstances. Key requirements will continue to be as follows:

1. the State can only make use of the power in exceptional cases;

2. a failure of parental duty towards the child must exist -- where the parents, regardless of their marital status, fail in their duty towards their children;

3. any failure must involve harm or risk to the child's safety or welfare -- to such extent that the safety or welfare of any of their children is likely to be prejudicially affected;

4. the actions of the State must be in balance with the harm or risk to the child that needs to be addressed -- by proportionate means; and

5. the actions the State can take must be set out in law -- as provided by law'"

What was the problem?

The italicised part in key requirement number three is an entirely new phrase which No campaigners say could lower the threshold for State intervention. As it is a new requirement, it was wrong for the Government to say that this was a key requirement that "will continue".

What did the Government do?

The Government admitted the error. But it waited until three weeks after being made aware of the inaccuracy to remove the words "continue to" so it read: "Key requirements will be as follows".

The public was never notified of the correction to the mistake.

Irish Independent

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