Referendum Commission enters the debate

On May 18th last I wrote that chairman of the Referendum Commission, Mr. Justice O’Neill had bestowed extra powers upon himself and the Commission not contained in the Referendum Act, 2001. He said;

“We will be monitoring the debate to see what happens and if we feel that there is serious confusion or that people are being confused or misled in a serious way on issues arising directly out of the treaty we may then issue clarifying statements.”

In complete contradiction to the above statement Justice O’Neill also said;

“We do not intend to engage in the debate, we see our role as explaining to the people what is in the proposal. We are not going to supervise, control or try to influence that debate beyond discharging our statuary function to explain what’s in the treaty.”

The decision by the Commission to effectively abandon its neutral role and become involved in the debate has seriously damaged its credibility.

To date, the Commission has announced its ‘considered position’ on taxation, neutrality, abortion, qualified majority voting and the retention of a veto on any future WTO deal.

These are all issues that the No campaign see as critical in their attempt to convince voters to reject the treaty. The ‘clarifications’ by the Commission can obviously be seen as a great boost for the Yes campaign.

The Commission has not felt the need to clarify misleading statements made by the Yes campaign such as Garrett Fitzgerald’s assertion that we will become the pariahs of the EU and Minister Ryan’s claim that Europe would face chaos if the treaty is rejected.

It’s worth listening to this news item (3rd report) to understand how the Commission is getting itself into all kinds of difficulties as a result of its interventions in the debate.

Copy to:
Referendum Commission

3 thoughts on “Referendum Commission enters the debate”

  1. There is much odd about this referendum.

    I think the biggest single problem though is the weird behavior so many on the No side are indulging in.

    To put it bluntly, I am sickened by the dishonesty of nutty Catholic groups (in particular) raising many issues dishonestly instead of telling the electorate precisely what it is they stand for and who they are. They put up posters with no signature allowing the electorate to inquire or debate with them further. Sinn Fein in contrast though do make it easy to debate with them or find out more about where they are coming from if you wish. But they are the exception as far as I can tell.

    The disingenuous shit stirring from too many on the NO side will only hurt the No campaign and disenfranchise those people who want to vote No on the basis of their own well researched and genuinely held opinions. That can’t be good for democracy.


  2. Well Gearoid,

    What odd about this referendum is the behavior of the Yes side, they are constantly attacking the various factions in the No side (shoot the messenger basically) trying to paint them as a bunch of pariahs that nobody should vote for.

    Whilst they constantly side-step any debate on the issues such as the Solidarity pact, Qualified Majority Voting and so on.

    Hopefully the lisbon treaty will be laid to rest next thursday.

  3. It does seem Ferdia that many of the promises from the Yes side are going to be impossible to keep in the long term (some even in the short term). I personally am not swayed by the Yes campaign as much as my own thinking on the subject which I have engaged in long before now.

    I accept that there are perfectly rational reasons for voting No and I must admit to finding some of the No arguments compelling, but not enough to change my mind (so far).

    I wish they’d all just tell it like it is, warts and all, and let the electorate weigh it all up for ourselves.

    In other words, I fear that at some time in the future, many people on either side could feel duped.

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