My letter to Gilmore about treaty ‘explanatory note’
Press Statement: Paul Murphy MEP (Socialist Party / United Left Alliance) 11 April 2012
MEP writes to Tánaiste to express concerns over Treaty ‘explanatory note’ being potentially unlawful
· Referendum Commission should be given responsibility for drafting note
· Threatens legal action if explanatory note breaches McKenna judgement
Socialist Party / United Left Alliance MEP Paul Murphy today wrote to Tánaiste, Eamon Gilmore, to express his concern at media reports that the government would send an ‘explanatory note’ to all households along with the text of the Fiscal Treaty. Key extracts from his letter are below:
“I am very concerned about the proposal to include an ‘explanatory note’ from the Government. I would like to remind you of the Supreme Court ruling in the McKenna v. An Taoiseach (1995) case. Here the Supreme Court ruled that the government cannot use taxpayers’ money to fund one side in a referendum campaign.
“This ‘explanatory note’ must be neutral in its presentation of its explanation of the Treaty. Any bias in terms of the content of this note would amount to a breach of the McKenna judgement and would be an unlawful interference in the referendum campaign.
“I would like therefore to propose that it is the Referendum Commission which drafts the explanatory note to be distributed with the Treaty. This is a matter that clearly comes within its remit as set out by the Referendum Act, 2001, where it is tasked with preparing:
“‘one or more statements containing a general explanation of the subject matter of the proposal and of the text there of in the relevant Bill and any other information relating to those matters that the Commission considers appropriate’
“If for whatever reason you do not feel it is possible for the Referendum Commission to draft such a statement, I must request that campaigners against this Treaty are consulted on the content of the explanatory note and that a wording is agreed consensually.
“If these requests are not taken into account and the wording produced for the explanatory note is biased, I will be taking legal advice about seeking an injunction to prevent the distribution of such a note.”