Sunday 19 November 2017

Kenny must accept that we face crisis over referendums

We face a crisis in our much-battered democratic system over referendums, a crisis that will test the Coalition Government led by Enda Kenny. I refer of course to last week's McCrystal judgment in the Supreme Court finding deliberate corruption by the State in the Children's Referendum through its now notorious booklet. This distorted the people's right and duty to judge freely on constitutional change. The crisis resulted from one-sided referendum 'advice'. Taxpayers' money was used without parliamentary consultation.

The State breached the constitutional rights established in the Patricia McKenna case. Her brave intrusion into constitutional corruption by the Albert Reynolds-led Government was heroic. The country then faced the 1992 Maastricht Treaty referendum adopting the euro currency. The Government campaigned for a Yes vote, engaging a private advertising agency and filling the country with publicly financed billboards. Ms McKenna challenged this.

Her action in the High Court was dismissed by Mr Justice Declan Costello. Because the judgment came virtually on the eve of the Maastricht referendum, she did not appeal. She revived her case with the divorce poll three years later. She lost again in the High Court but appealed and succeeded in the Supreme Court. That court laid down the "McKenna principles" setting out clearly the rights of Irish citizens to fairness, equality and democracy in constitutional referendums.

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