Does the referendum on the Court of Appeal contain any hidden dangers?

courtsBy Michael Gallagher

Most of the debate over the 4 October referendums has focused on the abolition of the Seanad, understandably enough, but there’s another referendum too: the 33rd amendment on the establishment of a Court of Appeal. Sometimes when there is more than one referendum on the same day, the ‘minor’ proposal is seen as uncontentious and passes without difficulty, but on other occasions its very lack of visibility can count against it, as when voters finally become aware of it some of them suspect that it is being deliberately kept quite as the political class is trying to smuggle something through without their noticing, so to speak. It may then take just one well-delivered blow to finish it off, as happened two years ago when the presidential election overshadowed the referendum on extending the powers of Oireachtas committees, and the intervention of the former Attorneys-General was enough to tilt the balance against it, even though after the event most voters seemed to favour the idea that it embodied and could no longer recall the arguments that had led them to vote No.

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Possible referendums on Articles 26 and 34

By Michael Gallagher

Earlier this week the Minister for Justice announced proposals to amend several articles of the constitution dealing with the role of the judiciary, specifically to add a Civil Court of Appeal and a Family Court, and to reconsider the ‘one judgment rule’ in Article 26.2.2. Details in a press release of 17 July 2012:

1. Add a Civil Court of Appeal and a Family Court structure. This would reduce the load on the Supreme Court, which is responsible for a lengthy backlog of cases, and would also narrow the range of cases that reach it. Continue reading

Inquiries referendum is lazy measure that won’t empower the Oireachtas

Eoin O’Malley 24 October

The referendum on the 30th amendment – the inquiries referendum – is on the face of it something most people would want to support. It seeks to empower the Oireachtas to hold inquiries which should strengthen the government oversight function. Specifically it seeks to overturn (or render void) the decision in Maguire v. Ireland (the Abbeylara Judgement) which among other things:

 “as there was no provision in the Constitution which expressly authorised the Oireachtas to conduct inquiries of the nature which had been undertaken by the Abbeylara sub-committee, any such power must be inherent or implied. Continue reading

In place of the Referendum Commission

After the Nice Treaty referendum it was decided to change the terms of reference of the Referendum Commission so that it no longer gives arguments for or against the proposed amendment. Instead it sets out the rationale for the amendment and what it sets out to do. It does not engage in whether the proposal is likely to be effective in this. Because of this the Referendum Commision’s information pack is disappointing and arguably biased – if all it can do is set out the rationale for a proposal all it can really say is what the government put in the memorandum attached to the relevant bills.

Because of this restriction lawyers in UCD Law School have taken on the job – and done it very effectively (and for free). Their setting out of the arguments for the 29th and 30th referendums are here and here. They set out what the documents attempt to do here.

Reforming an outdated legal system

Des O’Malley argues in the Irish Times today that the legal system here is in need of reform. He points out that money has now become a decisive factor in determining the outcome of legal disputes. Interestingly he points the finger squarely at the state: “The level of fees seems to percolate from the top. The State is the greatest culprit.” In calling for reform he asks if the debate oculd be conduced without “rigid adherence to the status quo”. What are the chances?

2nd Republic – Designing A Citizen Assembly

By Oliver Moran

A surprising aspect of the debate on political reform over the past few months is that discussion has been not only on the question of what needs to change but also on how we are to answer that question. It is possibly a consequence of the seriousness of the situation that we found ourselves in that the need for reform appears to be accepted and so the question falls onto a) what reforms and b) who decides. Furthermore, the second question demonstrates a seriousness to answer the first and a determination to answer it correctly.

The editors of this website have long advocated a Citizen’s Assembly as a means to decide on reforms. The ‘We the Citizens’ initiative is in the act of demonstrating the value of these kind of deliberative processes. One of those benefits is the legitimacy that they give to decisions that arise from them. Do we really want to look back in a decade’s time and see the decisions made during this time of change through the lens of ‘cui bono’ (‘who benefits’)? For the less conspiratorial minded, do we want to look back and ask if the fullest possible discussion took place? Will we be satisfied to know that  decisions were arrived at through the intercourse of a (well-meaning) few? Who decides on reform is as central a question as which reforms. Continue reading

Removing a TD from Office – Harder than you think…

Jennifer Kavanagh 23/03/2011

(Originally posted on 22/03/2011)

Today the final Moriarty report was revealed. The allegations therein have caused many to speculate whether charges will be made against any of the persons involved for corruption. One of the people named in the report happens to be that of Michael Lowry who is a sitting TD for the constituency of North Tipperary. If it were to be the case that the House sought to expel a TD then it would make for both interesting political debate and throw up some interesting questions for constitutional law. Continue reading