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Tuesday 23 January 2018

Howlin: I behaved in a cack-handed way. I apologise

PUBLIC Expenditure Minister Brendan Howlin has apologised after he personally criticised Referendum Commission chairman Bryan McMahon following the defeat of the constitutional amendment on Oireacthas inquiries.

Speaking on RTE Radio's News at One programme today, Minister Howlin said "I regret that answers that I gave to questions during the count were seen to be critical of the referendum commission.

"I was simply trying, obviously in a cack-handed way, to answer the question of what were the issues that lead to a no vote.

"It wasn't or isn't my intention to question in any way the role or the independence of the chair of the independent commission or the commission as a whole.

"If [Judge McMahon] feels in any way there was a slight I unreservedly apologise. But I hope he will accept that it was never my intention to slight the commission in any way."

The row between Mr Howlin and the Referendum Commission centred on whether people would be able to go to court if they were concerned about the fairness of an Oireachtas inquiry.

As chairman of the commission, Judge McMahon said it was not possible to state definitively what role "if any" the courts would have in reviewing the procedures adopted by Oireachtas inquiries.

But those comments annoyed Mr Howlin, who personally blamed Judge McMahon for spreading "confusion" among voters.

"The chairman of the Referendum Commission used, as far as I was concerned, the two words which caused confusion. And he genuinely believes it -- 'if any'. And that did certainly, I think, caused people to hesitate," he said on Saturday after it became clear that the amendment had been defeated.

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