Thursday, October 25, 2012

Challenge to Government for presentation of one-sided material for the Children's Rights Referendum

The Irish Times reported Oct 24 that a challenge made by engineer Mark McCrystal to the alleged use of “one-sided” material in the Government’s information campaign about the children’s referendum will be heard by the High Court early next week. It is claimed €1.1 million of public money is being spent on the campaign.

Mark McCrystal, an engineer from Kilbarrack Road, Dublin, claims the Government has been using information that is not neutral but rather designed, intended and likely to promote a Yes vote in the November 10th referendum.

He has brought proceedings over the matter against the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs, the Government of Ireland, Ireland and the Attorney General.

He was given permission last Friday to serve short notice of the proceedings on the State parties and, when the matter returned to court yesterday, Ms Justice Mary Laffoy agreed it was urgent and fixed a hearing date for next Tuesday.

The judge said that would be enough time for both sides to prepare their cases, given that polling day is November 10th.

The State, represented by David Hardiman SC, had asked for time to respond to Mr McCrystal’s claims, which include allegations concerning material being published via the internet.

An independent expert would be required to give an opinion on the material about which complaints were made, counsel said.

Ruadhán Mac Aodháin, for Mr McCrystal, said the action arises from his client’s concerns that one-sided material about the referendum has been used on a Government website. A total of €1.1 million was to be spent on the information campaign, he said.

In his action, Mr McCrystal claims the State is in breach of the 1995 judgment by the Supreme Court in the McKenna case to the effect that referendums should be explained to the public in an impartial manner. He says he has no objection to the State arguing for a Yes vote but contends it cannot use public money to do so. He is seeking various injunctions, including one restraining the State from spending public money on websites and booklets for the purpose of promoting a particular result in the referendum.

He also wants the court to stop the State representing or distributing information to the public which, he claims, is designed to promote a particular result.