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Planning ahead - How to run a referendum next time.


He3

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Changing our Constitution can only happen by agreement of the people by way of referendum.

As the Supreme Court said on Thursday:

"The people adopted the Constitution 75 years ago. The Constitution belongs to the people and may be amended only by the people in a Referendum. It is this democratic process which is protected by the McKenna principles. Public funding should not be used in a Referendum to espouse a particular point of view."

If you want a great short primer on why change requires direct public approval check out the historical presentation by High Court Judge Gerard Hogan at this site Constitution Project @ UCC | Constitution Project is an interdisciplinary research cluster at UCC. You will need to roll down the page past four other items before you get to the heading 'The Referendum Process'. There is the video clip and it is really worth viewing to understand why in 1937 it was decided to keep the power to change the Constitution in the hands of the entire electorate and not give it to elected representatives.

The other clip to view there directly on point is UCC Constitutional Law lecturer Dr Maria Cahill. Her account of the Courts upholding that principle under severe pressure is excellent, and again concise.

40 minutes tops and then if you really want some reading material check out the gold standard for running a referendum here:

Code of good practice on Referendums adopted by the Council for Democratic Elections at its 19th meeting (Venice, 16 December 2006) and the Venice Commission.

The Venice Commission Code is mentioned in the concise 500 word Supreme Court ruling in the McCrystal case, which is here: http://supremecourt.ie/Judgments.nsf/1b0757edc371032e802572ea0061450e/6b4d1de136ecb72d80257ab000419d78?OpenDocument.

4. The McKenna principles may be found in the several judgments in that case. These principles, which are not in dispute, are consistent with standards recognised both nationally and internationally for a Referendum process, such as the European Commission for Democracy through Law (Venice Commission), Code for Good Practice on Referendums, adopted by the Council for Democratic Elections at its 19th Meeting (Venice, 16 December, 2006) and the Venice Commission at its 70th Plenary Session (Venice, 16 – 17 March, 2007).
We will face other proposals for change. 70 percent of the electorate feeling so alienated from the process that they abstain from voting is neither inevitable nor healthy.

We might try a better approach next time. The blueprint is there. Instead of following it, successive governments have been caught trying to subvert it.
 
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Mountaintop

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Thought 'run' was missing an 'i' in the thread title....then I realised the Government hadn't written it.
 

He3

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Thought 'run' was missing an 'i' in the thread title....then I realised the Government hadn't written it.
We have an unbeatable record in ruining referendums all right.

It need not continue.
 

Con Gallagher

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1. Give every household in the country a copy of the Constitution.
2. Only amend if it is necessary (eg legislate for marriage equality first).
3. Fund both sides equally
4. Referendum commission should articulate reasons to vote yes and no
5. Hold the referendum on a Friday (highlighting that supplemental registration can occur up to 15 days before the poll).
6. Platitudes by politicians should be avoided.
7. Scaremongering should be corrected by referendum commission.
 

fuque

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try start with electing a government who know their ars.e from their elbow...
 

He3

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1. Give every household in the country a copy of the Constitution.
2. Only amend if it is necessary (eg legislate for marriage equality first).
3. Fund both sides equally
4. Referendum commission should articulate reasons to vote yes and no
5. Hold the referendum on a Friday (highlighting that supplemental registration can occur up to 15 days before the poll).
6. Platitudes by politicians should be avoided.
7. Scaremongering should be corrected by referendum commission.
Those are all good proposals. Number 6 will be ignored.

The Referendum Commission should be given a minimum three month lead in time.
 

Half Nelson

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It's pointless laying down laws and rules for the conduct of referendums when governments can and do breach those rules, even after voting has begun.
We know that FG&Lab Governments are not worried about breaching SC orders because they have done so on two or more occasions.

The missing factor is 'accountability'.
Misappropriation or theft of exchequer funds should be a criminal offence and we have a constitutional office that is charged with guarding those funds but so far that office seems to be far more concerned with tackling those without power.
The latest crackdown began after the Comptroller and Auditor General warned "more frequent" fraud surveys were necessary
.
 

ivnryn

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4. Referendum commission should articulate reasons to vote yes and no
7. Scaremongering should be corrected by referendum commission.
What would be nice would be if the Referendum Commission would answer fact based questions.

Answers to those questions could then be considered if the SC every has to make decisions on the amendment. Not binding, but if there was ambiguity, then weight could be given to how the people were advised.

Ofc, it creates incentives to ask questions in a way that the truth is misleading.
 

He3

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Has any Government Minister shown any sign in public of having read the Venice Commission document?

Afaik the angry political party reaction from the usual suspects has made no mention of that internationally agreed set of standards - which I think Ireland is signed up to.
 

sondagefaux

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There's been a proposal on twitter also that the Referendum Commission act as a fact-checker for the claims made by both sides. I think it has done that to a very limited extent, but it wouldn't be a bad idea to make that an explicit part of its remit. It would also be useful if the media were then obliged to ensure that the Referendum Commission's findings were voiced everytime a claim was made by either side.

For example, if somebody on one side made a claim during a TV debate, which the Referendum Commission had found to be false, then the moderator would have to intervene and state clearly that the Referendum Commmission had found this claim to be false.

Hopefully, it would quickly remove the more outlandish claims that are made during campaigns.
 

borntorum

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1. Give every household in the country a copy of the Constitution.
2. Only amend if it is necessary (eg legislate for marriage equality first).
3. Fund both sides equally
4. Referendum commission should articulate reasons to vote yes and no
5. Hold the referendum on a Friday (highlighting that supplemental registration can occur up to 15 days before the poll).
6. Platitudes by politicians should be avoided.
7. Scaremongering should be corrected by referendum commission.
I agree with 1, 2 & 5. Particularly 1. It's disgraceful how little people know about the Constitution.

Not sure about the other ones. The Ref Com used to argue on both side of the topic, and it became quite confusing. I think it's better to present the material impartially and let the people decide - as the Ref Com has done admirably in the past few referendums
 

Rocky

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There's been a proposal on twitter also that the Referendum Commission act as a fact-checker for the claims made by both sides. I think it has done that to a very limited extent, but it wouldn't be a bad idea to make that an explicit part of its remit. It would also be useful if the media were then obliged to ensure that the Referendum Commission's findings were voiced everytime a claim was made by either side.

For example, if somebody on one side made a claim during a TV debate, which the Referendum Commission had found to be false, then the moderator would have to intervene and state clearly that the Referendum Commmission had found this claim to be false.

Hopefully, it would quickly remove the more outlandish claims that are made during campaigns.
The problem is that no one can see the future or predict what things will lead to. It would just lead to the Referendum Commission being attacked and efforts to undermine it's credibility. There was an element of this on some issue in the last EU referendum.
 

Rocky

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I agree with 1, 2 & 5. Particularly 1. It's disgraceful how little people know about the Constitution.

Not sure about the other ones. The Ref Com used to argue on both side of the topic, and it became quite confusing. I think it's better to present the material impartially and let the people decide - as the Ref Com has done admirably in the past few referendums
The Constitution is easily available on the Internet and I don't see why people would read that book, when they won't look at it on the Internet.
 

sondagefaux

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The problem is that no one can see the future or predict what things will lead to. It would just lead to the Referendum Commission being attacked and efforts to undermine it's credibility. There was an element of this on some issue in the last EU referendum.
In cases where claims have been found to be false by the Referendum Commission, claiming the Referendum Commmission is biased should be treated as contempt of court, with jail until the contempt is purged.
 

NLPete

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Too late to be going on about it now.

First thing I heard this Morning was "The People have decided" they "the Gov and others" can now wash their hands and claim democracy has prevailed.

I'm mad as hell! its one thing to lose a referendum, but its something quite different to be cheated out of a fair crack at it.

I feel like saying "What a shower of cap doffing fools" but that would be unfair because the majority were ill informed.
 

Con Gallagher

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The Constitution is easily available on the Internet and I don't see why people would read that book, when they won't look at it on the Internet.
Firstly, not everyone has access to the Internet and even if every public library has a copy of the Constitution, there would a significant benefit in sending it directly to the people. It is a neat document and has a gravitas which is not conveyed in printing from an internet cafe. It is easy to read but an element of spoon feeding would not do any harm. The document itself is in its 75th year - that is reason enough why every household should have a copy of it.
 

He3

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He3

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In cases where claims have been found to be false by the Referendum Commission, claiming the Referendum Commmission is biased should be treated as contempt of court, with jail until the contempt is purged.
What would you do with public office holders who spend say a million euro of public money on unlawful referendum propaganda?
 

southwestkerry

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Am I alone in saying that a vast number off folks in Ireland just dont care enough about referendums to read up on everything and just go with the flow. The children's referendum just was not on peoples list off stuff to worry about hence the lack off interest. I doubt half those who voted even knew what they were voting on they just went along with what the Gov wanted.
SWK
 

southwestkerry

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Firstly, not everyone has access to the Internet and even if every public library has a copy of the Constitution, there would a significant benefit in sending it directly to the people. It is a neat document and has a gravitas which is not conveyed in printing from an internet cafe. It is easy to read but an element of spoon feeding would not do any harm. The document itself is in its 75th year - that is reason enough why every household should have a copy of it.
Sorry to say but a wast off money as only 5% off people would read/pay attention to such a doc. The vast number off people would just bin it.
 

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