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The Irish Council for Civil Liberties argues that the referendum on Oireachtas inquiries will lead to the creation of 'Kangaroo courts'.
October 27

Kenny, Gilmore speak out for Yes vote in two referenda

The government leaders come out in force as the Irish Council for Civil Liberties hails declining support for Oireachtas inquiries.

TAOISEACH ENDA KENNY and Tánaiste Eamon Gilmore have renewed their calls for voters to vote Yes on the two referenda amending the Constitution which are being put to the public this Thursday.

In statements released within minutes of each other this lunchtime, the Fine Gael and Labour leaders argued that both measures were in the public interest, and asked voters to approve both votes.

The two referenda will ask voters, separately, whether they wish to amend the Constitutional clause which guarantees that a judge’s pay cannot be cut while they are in office; and to allow Oireachtas committees to hold inquiries and make findings of fact.

Speaking from Brussels, Kenny said the referendum on judges’ pay was “about fairness” and ensuring that pay reductions being applied across the public service could also be applied to the judiciary.

“The independence of the judiciary is not compromised by the proposed amendment,” Gilmore added said. “The other strong protections in the Constitution remain untouched.

On the referendum on Oireachtas Inquiries, Kenny said a Yes vote would allow “allow issues of public importance to be put under the spotlight in a public, cost-efficient and timely fashion” by elected representatives.

Gilmore argued that allowing Oireachtas committees to hold inquiries “will help us break away from vested interests and examine important matters of public interest such as the Irish banking system.

“Moreover, such inquiries will cost the Irish tax-payer significantly less than the tribunals of the past.”

Gilmore resisted suggestions that politicians were not capable of conducting an inquiry, saying previous examples undertaken by the Public Accounts Committee like the DIRT inquiry were a sign of the good work which could be done.

“It is important to note that the focus here is not on individuals. The purpose of the amendment is to allow Committees to inquire into public policy events not individuals. However, that may involve a finding against an individual as individuals do make mistakes.

The Tánaiste also denied that individuals against whom findings had been made would not be permitted to appeal to the courts.

“The procedures will be governed by law and all statute is subject to review by the courts. The amendment does introduce another test which the courts would have to consider – the public interest.

Gilmore’s advice goes against that of the chairman of the Referendum Commission, retired High Court justice Bryan McMahon, who said the wording of the amendment would be difficult for the courts to carry out a judicial review on the rights of witnesses called to an Oireachtas inquiry.

McMahon told RTÉ that whether the courts could review decisions on the rights of witnesses would depend on the circumstances of the inquiry being held, and the nature of any decisions made against a witness by the Oireachtas.

‘Kangaroo courts’

The Irish Council for Civil Liberties has welcomed the falling support for the referendum on Oireachtas inquiries, saying this weekend’s opinion polls showed a declining number of people willing to vote in its favour.

The Sunday Times’ Behaviour and Attitudes poll, which was carried out between last Sunday and Tuesday, showed that 76 per cent of voters were set to vote in favour of the referendum – a figure which rose to 83 per cent when undecided voters were removed.

The Sunday Independent’s poll from Quantum Research, which didn’t consider the opinions of undecided voters, said 68 per cent of respondents were set to vote Yes.

The latter poll was taken on Friday – after the ICCL had launched its No campaign, which argues that the referendum would create a ‘Kangaroo court’ for the Oireachtas.

ICCL director Mark Kelly said the council was confident that “as more people read their Referendum Commission booklet and think through the implications of this power grab by the Oireachtas, support for the Government’s proposals will continue to plummet.”

Kelly urged any voter who did not get the time to thoroughly examine the government’s proposal to vote No in the referendum.

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