Sinn Féin’s Pearse Doherty has lost a High Court challenge against the Referendum Commission ahead of tomorrow’s Fiscal Treaty vote.
The court rejected his challenge that the Commission made conflicting statements about the government’s ability to veto the European Stability Mechanism (ESM).
Mr Justice Gerard Hogan said it would be impossible for the court, at this point, to give a definitive view on the arguments raised. He refused to find the statement by Commission Chairman, Mr Justice Kevin Feeney, that Ireland could have but didn’t veto the ESM was wrong or likely to affect the referendum result.
Sinn Fein’s Gerry Adams says the judge’s ruling vindicates Pearse Doherty’s decision to take the challenge: “On the very, very crucial point as to whether the government has discretion in terms of this, the judge said ‘it would be impossible for this court, at this juncture, to give a definitive view’.”
Tánaiste Eamon Gilmore described the application as a stunt by Sinn Féin to create confusion in the minds of voters in the final hours of the campaign. “It was a last desperate attempt by Sinn Féin to cast doubt on the independence of the Referendum Commission. Because Sinn Féin didn’t like some of the answers provided by the Commission, they had a last throw of the dice which fortunately has failed.”
Minister for European Affairs, Lucinda Creighton, accused Sinn Féin of making a mockery of the legal system.
She described the legal challenge as “a cynical and frivolous and a pathetic attempt to garner attention” before the broadcast media blackout, which is due to start this lunchtime.
Reacting this lunchtime to the High Court decision, Deputy Doherty stated: “For several weeks now the yes campaign have been using commentary from the Referendum Commission as definitive statements of fact. It is now clear that this view is not shared by the High Court. The view of the Referendum Commission is not fact but opinion.
“Justice Hogan stated clearly that there is room for legitimate and political debate on the question and the matter would be ultimately by the European Court of Justice in reference with the Supreme Court.”
Explaining the grounds for the application, Deputy Doherty stated yesterday: “It is our belief that the Referendum Commission erred in fact and law when they made a statement on May 3rd that the government no longer had a veto in relation the ESM.
“This statement has been used repeatedly, by advocates of the Treaty as one of their key reasons for a yes vote. This is despite the fact that the Referendum Commission qualified their position on May 18.
“However, the failure of the Referendum Commission to retract the original statement and to adequately publicise their subsequent clarification has meant that the incorrect account of the matter has continued to be quoted widely.”