Charm offensive underway for referendum relaunch

Let’s face it. The defeated referendum on Oireachtas inquiries has indeed been passed - despite its failure first time around. It has been passed because “confusion had been put into the minds of voters,” they say; and it has been passed because our politicians want it passed. So, alas, a second referendum - an ‘informed’ one this time - will inevitably be launched in a re-run similar to that of the Lisbon Treaty.

Sure what’s the point? We’re not clever enough to decide for ourselves. And that Attorney General crowd, sure what would they know after all? So here we are. Michael D is our ninth president, judges are to take a pay cut, and our ministers are already falling over each other, in an incredible show of arrogance, in their attempts to relaunch the rebuffed referendum. According to Minister Howlin, the referendum had “perhaps received less consideration than expected as the rollercoaster presidential campaign had won much public and media attention.”

Maybe, maybe not. Maybe the Irish public, did, in fact, sit up and take notice of the now infamous letter sent to the Irish Times by eight legal eagles in which they told us that this amendment would seriously weaken the rights of individuals and provide inadequate protection for the independence of the judiciary. Maybe the plan to slip this amendment under the nose of a supposedly unsuspecting population wasn’t the right approach. “We must now tell them that a seed of doubt was planted and that they were uninformed despite our very informative tag-line and television adverts,” they will surely think.

So, what next? As was hinted by Minister Howlin late last week, a ‘No’ vote for the Oireachtas committee inquiries amendment won’t be the end of the road. “It’s going to be very difficult to have the sort of parliament that this Government is committed to having, and that is an Oireachtas that holds the Executive to account robustly, that seeks after truth, that ensures it’s done efficiently and effectively, without powers that are close to or analogous to the ones we proposed,” he said.

The charm offensive has already gotten under way. The Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs, Eamon Gilmore, has hit back at the rejection. He has said that a major banking inquiry cannot now take place due to the failure of the 30th amendment to the Constitution. How very appropriate to throw the populist book in our face.

Minister for Justice Minister Alan Shatter is, of course, on the same page. He also seems to be utterly contemptuous of the Irish electorate and their opinion. According to Shatter, the resistance to the inquiries referendum was not down to voters being against it, but because it’s a complex issue which was largely ignored due to the coverage of the presidential election. Really? Well thanks for that Minister, we didn’t know it was the media’s idea to run all four ballots on the same day. We always thought that that was the Government’s idea and that we were being tricked in to giving a ‘Yes’ vote towards an amendment which would give unanswerable powers to our elected representatives under a vague “public interest” argument . Thanks for clearing that up though. So, in conclusion, let’s face it. The defeated referendum on the Houses of the Oireachtas inquiries has indeed been passed. It has been, or will be, whichever you prefer, passed despite the huge 928,175 votes against. It has been, or will be, passed because, simply put, our politicians of the day want it passed.