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Commission criticises short window for publishing referendum guides

The Referendum Commission had 23 days to write, design and print its guide for the Oireachtas Inquiries referendum – and will only have 27 for the Fiscal Compact…

Ombudsman Emily O'Reilly and Referendum Commission chairman Justice Bryan MacMahon at a press conference last October.
Ombudsman Emily O'Reilly and Referendum Commission chairman Justice Bryan MacMahon at a press conference last October.
Image: Eamonn Farrell/Photocall Ireland

THE REFERENDUM COMMISSION has criticised the “highly unsatisfactory” arrangements in advance of the constitutional referendum on Oireachtas Inquiries, which led to some households not receiving its printed guides before polling day.

In its official report for the two October 27 referendums, the report also criticised how aid the official wording of the referendum on Oireachtas Inquiries had only been made available two days before public information leaflets had to be sent to print.

This resulted in a rush to have An Post send a copy of the information guide to every home in the country, and ultimately ended up leaving a number of voters without the guide before they cast their votes.

“Had time permitted, delivery of the Guide would have taken place earlier and these issues would probably not have arisen,” the Commission said.

It is the Commission’s view that the time provided to the Commission to fulfil its mandate was highly unsatisfactory in this regard.

The publication of the report comes as the Seanad begins its discussions on the Fiscal Compact referendum – with only a slightly longer window for publishing an information guide on this occasion.

Four more days

Assuming the Seanad approves the referendum wording tomorrow, there will then be 27 working days between the formal approval of the wording and the intended ballot day – just four days more than was available for the Oireachtas Inquiries ballot.

The formal wording of the Oireachtas Inquiries referendum was published on Monday 26 September, leaving two days for the information guide to be finalised and then seven working days for it to be printed before the two-week distribution window to the country’s homes.

While 63 per cent of people polled by the Commission said the Guide had been of use in helping them make up their minds on how to vote, only 53 per cent of people said likewise on the question about Oireachtas inquiries.

More: 43 per cent of voters didn’t understand Oireachtas Inquiries referendum by polling day

Read: The Referendum Commission’s official report on the October referendums (PDF) >

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Gavan Reilly

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