The 30th Amendment to the Irish constitution, to give more powers of investigation to the Dublin parliament [Oireachtas], has been defeated in a shock reverse for the coalition government.
There were 928,175 votes (53.3%) against the change to the Constitution while 812,008 (46.7%) people voted for the amendment.
Objections to the referendum had multiplied in recent weeks as civil liberties groups had pointed to its potential for abuse, warning of ‘kangaroo courts’ of politicians sitting in judgment over their fellow citizens. The timing of the referendum, on the same day of the Presidential election, was also criticised.
Fine Gael Justice Minister Alan Shatter has denied responsibility for the failure to pass the reform. He claimed his coalition colleague, Labour’s Brendan Howlin was in charge of the Amendment. Howlin in turn is said to have blamed the chair of the Referendum Commission, whose duty it is to ensure a full public debate takes place on the matter.
Thousands of voters also abstained on the referendum -- voting in the Presidential election but declining to place a mark on the referendum ballot.
Commentators suggested the result pointed to the deep distrust among voters towards the Dublin parliament and the government agenda.
Speaking at Dublin Castle just before Michael D Higgins was officially presented as new President-elect of Ireland, Minister Howlin indicated the amendment would likely be put back before the voters soon in another form.
JUDGES’ PAY REFERENDUM PASSES
In contrast, the constitutional referendum on reducing judges’ pay passed with ease, by more than one million votes.
The 1937 constitution had specified that judges’ pay could never be reduced, in order to limit political influence over the justice system. After the judiciary refused to take a voluntary pay cut in line with other public servants earlier this year, the government vowed to force the matter, despite the strong opposition of the legal profession.
A total of 1,785,707 people (79.3 per cent) voted in favour of the amendment, the 29th to the Constitution, with 354,134 (20.7 per cent) voting against.
About 20,000 people who voted on the presidential election decided not to vote on the amendment, and a further 37,696 ballots were spoiled or otherwise declared invalid.
The announcement of the referendum results are the final declarations from Thursday’s voting and counting has now concluded at all count centres.