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Posts Tagged ‘ Campaign ’

News in Brief-Enda Dons Clown Pants As Author Rips Bono

endaSomeone’s been sending dirty nappies to Leinster House. It’s unclear to what this dirty protest relates or if it is the work of a group or individual. A Leinster House source commented: “We’re not too bothered by it.”

That is literally the end of that story. Continue reading

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Meningitis B Vaccine Approved, But Not Available.

TerriWe all know what it is like to be a teenager. Full of hopes, dreams and itching to get out there and see the world. However, for one vibrant teenager, all this was taken away so cruelly. The most cruel blow of all, was that it may have been prevented with one simple action.

Terri Devine was just 16 when meningitis cruelly robbed her of her ambitions, her dreams and her life. Just four days before Christmas, Sean and Marie Devine lost their daughter Terri after she battled with Meningitis B for just a few short days.

An avid GAA player, Terri was suffering flu like symptoms and arrived home from school early on a Wednesday. Put to bed with paracetamol, Terri’s parents thought that she had nothing more than a flu as there was no visible rash. After several checks on her, Terri seemed a little brighter, but when her father heard what he described as ‘unearthly moaning’ in their Glenmornan home in County Tyrone, he ran to Terri’s side and found her unconscious. She was rushed to Altnagalvin hospital where the family were told it was highly likely that Terri had meningitis. This was confirmed on the Friday and by the Saturday the Devine family received the earth shattering news that their beloved and bubbly Terri had no brain activity. Within a few minutes, the family made what would later become three phenomenal gifts. They decided to donate Terri’s organs and her mother Marie was informed only a short time later that in their darkest hour of grief, they had bestowed the gift of life to a 10 month old baby, a 13 year old boy and a 31 year old woman. Continue reading

Upcoming Referenda

Referendum

Tomorrow,on the same day as the Presidential election, we will be asked to vote on two referenda. One is on the issue of judicial pay and whether judges salaries should be reduced in line with the reduction enforced upon other civil servants. The other relates to the powers of the Houses of the Oireachtas to conduct an enquiry into any matter stated by the House or Houses involved to be of public importance. Unfortunately due to the levels of media attention given to the Presidential Election and the candidates in the race, very little focus has been placed on these proposed changes to our constitution. Also, unfortunately ( or perhaps fortunately as some politicians may see it) there has been very little political debate on either of these two issues in the run up to their being voted on.

For

This proposed amendment may well have appeared out of a growing public frustration with the prolonged, fruitless and expensive tribunals this country has seen in it’s recent history. These tribunals, which have been left up to the legal profession themselves to conduct, have been seen in many circles as a failure. Earlier this year the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) estimated that the cost to the State of the three tribunals of inquiry (Mahon,Morris,Moriarty) could be as much as €366m. Further insult was added to injury when reports emerged that those who appeared before the Moriarty tribunal may in fact be able to have their legal costs paid by the State as a result of judgments made by the Supreme Court made in the builders JMSE case against the Mahon/Flood tribunal in April of last year. These may include Micheal Lowry, Frank Dunlop and other persons who came before the Tribunals who were considered to have obstructed the tribunals. The PAC also found that five senior councils have been paid more than €5m for their work on Tribunals.

Committee Chairman, Bernard Allen TD said;

“The cost to the taxpayer for these tribunals and other legal services obtained by the State is astronomical. We need to achieve far greater value for money in procuring legal counsel. To accomplish this, competitive tendering should be made mandatory for legal services to the State. This will see a greater number of legal service providers competing for work and lead to lower prices.”

Further, in response to criticism during the week by eight former attorney’s general Minister for Justice Alan Shatter claimed these individuals had a vested interest because of the substantial fees that had been earned by the bar library as a result of the tribunal system. This point was echoed by Minister for Transport Leo Varadkar who said “it sounds to me like a bunch of lawyers looking to protect their incomes.

Those campaigning for a “yes” vote on the issue also say that this proposal would put us on an equal footing with how things are done internationally, as it will provide the Oireachtas with comparable inquiry powers to parliaments across the world. For example, in the U.S. Senate, all-party committees are formed to investigate companies/people/issues within the national interest and are seen as an important function of the Senate.

Indeed this all-party committee system would be a feature of the proposed enquiry powers, a feature that Brian Walsh T.D. believes has worked well, citing the example of the aforementioned PAC and it’s tackling of the issue of overspending in FÁS.

Furthermore, for those in the last General Election calling for a reform of politics in Ireland, a call Fine Gael said they would answer, this should be seen as the beginning of that. These Tribunals have been nothing short of a disaster, that much is widely acknowledged. Old politics in this country got us into the dire state we’re in, here is a chance to begin changing it.

Against

Perhaps the most common complaint against this proposal is the manner in which it has been rushed through without much debate. It was only quite recently that any attention was given to the two referenda to be decided on, in part due to the focus on the Presidential race. With regard to the proposed Oireachtas Inquiries amendment, greater discussion and debate is surely needed on an issue that ‘would give politicians judges’ powers’ according to senior counsel Oisin Quinn. The Irish Council for Civil Liberties (ICCL) which is spearheading the “no” campaign has called this proposed amendment rushed, ill-considered and failing to strike the right balance between the public interest and the rights of the individual.

The right of citizens to have disputes between them and the Oireachtas decided independently has been called into question by eight former attorneys general. The eight include Peter Sutherland, Michael McDowell and Paul Gallagher. Interestingly Mr. Gallagher is the immediate past Attorney General who advised the Fianna Fail/Green coalition that a referendum was needed to reduce judges’ pay. These eight have taken particular issue with the wording of the proposed legislation, which may be so open as to allow it to be manipulated in the future. This is a worry shared by former Senator Joe O’Toole who believes it is dangerous to change the Constitution in a way that does not limit what can be done by legislation in the future.

The Dáil’s Technical Group, composed of mainly independent TD’s has also urged for a “no” vote on this referendum on Oireachtas Inquiries. Chairman of the Group, Finian McGrath believes that it could hamper the work of the courts while Deputy Thomas Pringle stated his worry that the proposal gives the government of the day too much power to use these investigations for their own advantage. It is this latter point that is quite worrying.

Fine Gael leader Enda Kenny has said there is no intention of overstepping the mark with the powers provided by the new proposal, and there is no reason to doubt that. However, the worry arises over the possibility for future governments to abuse these powers. Would this new legislation give powers to the government of the day to investigate and publicly condemn their enemies? Also, if the outcome of an Oireachtas investigation was damning to a number of parties or high ranking members of parties can we count on these issues to be publicly exposed at the cost of a party or government?

Peter Mullan, joint managing partner of leading law firm Garrett Sheehan, spoke to The Independent of his fears on just this issue stating : “There are a number of political decisions that certain politicians would like to defend/Can we be absolutely certain that they (politicians) are going to be impartial?”

This point has been echoed by Green Party Dublin West candidate and lecturer in Constitutional law, Roderic O’Gorman. He further adds two more aspects of the proposed legislation which worry him. Firstly, that the Courts’ power to intervene if TDs or Senators decide to limit individuals procedural rights will be significantly lessened. Secondly, is that the new article is extremely vague on the rights individuals appearing before these inquiries receive; “Will their rights be set out in legislation, or will these be devised by each separate committee of inquiry as they go along?” he said.

Decisions

Somewhere in the brief recent arguments for and against the proposed 30th amendment to our Constitution you have seen or heard one thing which is enough for you to have made up your mind in one way or another. Perhaps you feel it’s time for change to the structure of politics to begin, perhaps you have had enough of costly tribunals and will vote “Yes”? Or perhaps you are wary of a potential “Big Brother” effect and removing power from the courts so you will vote “no”? Or maybe you feel there has not been enough debate on the issue and do not want to change the Constitution without feeling more certain of what change is being brought in, in that case “no” change may be safer for now.

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