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Referendum Commission head criticises government's Fiscal Compact book

Justice Kevin Feeney says the Government’s booklet, separate to its own, caused “confusion among the public”.

The Referendum Commission has criticised the Government's decision to issue an information booklet (pictured) which confused people about its origin.
The Referendum Commission has criticised the Government's decision to issue an information booklet (pictured) which confused people about its origin.

THE HIGH COURT JUDGE who chaired the Referendum Commission’s information campaign for the referendum on the Fiscal Compact has criticised the Government for issuing its own information booklet alongside it.

Justice Kevin Feeney’s official report on the Commission’s activity for the May 31 referendum said there was “evidence of confusion among the public” about the production of two separate information guides, one by the government and one by the commission itself.

Even some TDs and Senators were confused by the two guides, and had wrongly assumed that the Government’s information guide – which was completed and distributed to homes before the Referendum Commission’s own guide – had actually been produced by the Commission.

“The situation was not helped by the lack of a clear statement of the status of the producers of the Government guide and the lack of any contact details on the document,” Feeney wrote.

The judge remarked that the Department of the Taoiseach’s Customer Action Plan included a commitment to put full contact details on all of its written material – something it had failed to honour in its guide.

The Commission’s report comes only days after the Supreme Court released its reasoning for ruling that the government’s website for the Children’s Rights referendum failed the test of impartiality and fairness, and was therefore an illegal use of public funds.

Feeney’s report also includes a poll commissioned by the Referendum Commission on whether people felt informed about the matters they were asked to vote on.

61 per cent of respondents said they understood the Fiscal Compact and its goals at least to some extent, though 39 per cent said they did not understand it very well or at all.

This level of awareness was broadly similar to that showed before the second Lisbon Treaty referendum in 2009.

In full: TheJournal.ie’s coverage of the Fiscal Compact referendum

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Gavan Reilly

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