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Leo Varadkar Laura Hutton/Photocall Ireland

Varadkar: 'If the government made a mistake we accept that'

The Transport Minister has insisted that the children’s referendum will go ahead tomorrow amid calls for it to be postponed in the wake of the Supreme Court ruling about the government’s information campaign.

TRANSPORT MINISTER LEO Varadkar has said that the children’s referendum will go ahead tomorrow and said that if the government made a mistake in relation to its information campaign it accepts that.

Varadkar, who is Fine Gael’s director of elections for the referendum campaign, was speaking on RTÉ Radio this morning following the Supreme Court ruling that the contents of the government’s referendum website and information booklet was “not fair, equal or impartial”.

The ruling yesterday forced the government to significantly amend its website – twice – and make moves to withdraw and cease distribution of information leaflets distributed during the campaign ahead of the polls opening tomorrow.

The Supreme Court case did not deal with the validity of the referendum which means tomorrow’s poll goes ahead but there have been calls from the No side and a number of TDs, including Shane Ross and Finian McGrath, for it to be postponed.

On Morning Ireland, Varadkar said this would not happen: “The people make the final decision on this matter and the people will make the final decision in this matter tomorrow.”

He accepted that there may be a legal challenge to the result but pointed out that there had been a legal challenge to the divorce referendum in the 90s which resulted in the McKenna judgement whose principles the government were found to be in breach of yesterday.

Varadkar said that the government had sought advice on its original information documentation from the Attorney General’s office but acknowledged that this information had been “wrong”.

“Legal advice can be wrong,” he said.

Varadkar did not directly apologise for the the government’s mistake, but said: “If the government made a mistake here in the information booklet we hold up our hands up and we accept that.”

On the same programme, solicitor and No vote campaigner Malachy Steenson said that the Supreme Court would be undermined if the referendum went ahead.

“We have moved from being a democracy to being a dictatorship because what role now does the Supreme Court have?” he said.

The Supreme Court is due to issue the full details of its judgement on 11 December.

Voting in the referendum gets under way at 9am tomorrow and polls close at 10pm. A broadcast moratorium comes into effect from 2pm today.

Read: Minister: Government acted “in good faith” on referendum information

Read: Children’s Referendum website corrected after omitting part of amendment

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