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 Header Item Written Answers Nos. 91-107
 Header Item Detention Centres
 Header Item Bullying of Children
 Header Item Children's Rights Referendum
 Header Item Child Care Services Provision
 Header Item Child Protection Guidelines
 Header Item Adoption Legislation
 Header Item National Children's Strategy
 Header Item Domestic Violence Incidence
 Header Item Child Poverty
 Header Item Child Care Services Provision
 Header Item Health Services Staff Recruitment
 Header Item Child Abuse Issues
 Header Item Children's Rights Referendum

Tuesday, 18 December 2012

Dáil Éireann Debate
Vol. 787 No. 3

First Page Previous Page Page of 96 Next Page Last Page

Written Answers Nos. 91-107

Detention Centres

 91. Deputy Mary Lou McDonald Information on Mary Lou McDonald Zoom on Mary Lou McDonald asked the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs Information on Frances Fitzgerald Zoom on Frances Fitzgerald the date on which the Oberstown, County Dublin, facility will be fully operational; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [56779/12]

Minister for Children and Youth Affairs (Deputy Frances Fitzgerald): Information on Frances Fitzgerald Zoom on Frances Fitzgerald As the Deputy may be aware I announced on 2 April 2012, following agreement with the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform, an investment package for the project to expand the detention places and facilities on the Oberstown campus.

My officials in the Irish Youth Justice Service continue to work closely to progress this project with the Office of Public Works (OPW). The projected timeline estimate from OPW indicates that the first new residential units, to provide sufficient capacity to enable the transfer of responsibility for 17 year old boys from St. Patrick's Institution, will be available for use by mid 2014. The completion of this phase of the project will enable the extension of the child care model of detention to all under 18 year olds ordered to be detained by the courts.

The overall redevelopment project for the campus, which will also replace some existing outdated buildings and deliver education, visiting and other ancillary facilities, is currently scheduled for completion by mid 2015.

  Question No. 92 answered with Question No. 76.

Bullying of Children

 93. Deputy Bernard J. Durkan Information on Bernard Durkan Zoom on Bernard Durkan asked the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs Information on Frances Fitzgerald Zoom on Frances Fitzgerald the extent to which she has studied the incidence of bullying amongst young people which includes social bullying, bullying in the workplace, through the medium of the social media or the internet; if any provision has been made to address the issue with particular reference to the need to set up a complaints body to which victims can automatically refer a complaint and the possible use of modern technology as a means of combatting perpetrators; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [56662/12]

Minister for Children and Youth Affairs (Deputy Frances Fitzgerald): Information on Frances Fitzgerald Zoom on Frances Fitzgerald As Minister for Children & Youth Affairs I am concerned about the impact bullying can have on our children and young people, on their confidence, learning outcomes, self-esteem and mental health. The effects of bullying can last for years, and tragically bullying has contributed to the loss of young lives.

  My Department’s 'Growing Up in Ireland' study has found that over 24% of 9 to 17 year olds have reported been bullied. I am committed to working with colleagues in Government to ensure that integrated policy and service responses to combat bullying are high on our agenda.

  The new Children First guidelines published last year by my Department recognises the problem of bullying in schools. The Programme for Government also commits to supporting schools in developing local strategies to address bullying, and in particular homophobic bullying, in Irish schools

  Earlier this year the Minister for Education and Skills and I jointly-hosted the first National Anti-Bullying Forum to bring relevant stakeholders together. This forum provided an opportunity to further explore how best to tackle bullying in schools and to consider the strategies and practices required to address new challenges associated with modern communication technologies.

  Since then, a dedicated working group, on which my Department is represented, has been working to develop an action plan to update existing guidance and recommend further measures to effectively tackle bullying in schools. The outcomes and recommendations from the Forum, along with the submissions received from interested parties, are assisting the working group in its deliberations. Experts from my Department in areas such as child protection and children's participation have also provided assistance to the working group. I understand the group expects to complete its work by end of year.

  In terms of statutory provisions, the Education (Welfare) Act, 2000 obliges all schools to have a Code of Behaviour. The National Education Welfare Board, which now comes under my Department’s remit, has issued guidelines to assist each school in meeting their obligations which include the requirement to have policies to prevent or address bullying. Schools must make clear in their code of behaviour that bullying is unacceptable and compliance by schools with these requirements is inspected by Department of Education Inspectorate during Whole School Evaluations.

With regard to the use of modern technology as a means of combating perpetrators, the Office for Internet Safety, an executive office under the Department of Justice and Equality, was established by Government to take a lead responsibility for internet safety in Ireland, particularly as it relates to children. As part of its work it is committed to build on and oversee the current self-regulatory framework which is in place under the Internet Service Providers Association of Ireland   (ISPAI).

The National Centre for Technology in Education is also working to respond to the rise of cyber-bullying among school children and valuable advice is available on their website www.webwise.ie.

  It is my intention to ensure that the actions recommended by the Anti-Bullying Working Group and other measures to respond to bullying will be prioritised in the new Children & Young People’s Policy Framework being prepared by my Department.

Children's Rights Referendum

 94. Deputy Seamus Kirk Information on Seamus Kirk Zoom on Seamus Kirk asked the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs Information on Frances Fitzgerald Zoom on Frances Fitzgerald her response to the unanimous Supreme Court judgement that her Department acted in breach of the Constitution during the recent Children’s Referendum; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [56698/12]

Minister for Children and Youth Affairs (Deputy Frances Fitzgerald): Information on Frances Fitzgerald Zoom on Frances Fitzgerald At the outset I wish to emphasise that I and my Department did not set out to act in disregard of the Constitution. Indeed, no such claim was made in the proceedings.

  The Supreme Court identified two primary issues in the appeal by Mr. McCrystal against the decision of the High Court. First of these was a consideration of the test to be applied to trigger court intervention. Secondly, an application of the test and the McKenna principles to the material published by my Department. The Court considered, and pronounced on, the inherent characteristics of the McKenna case and how a ‘clear disregard’ of these would be identified. It considered ‘clear disregard’ to be an objective test and ruled that the High Court had erred in the test it had applied by way of a breach being blatant and egregious. While in its application of the test, the Court noted that not everything in the advertisements, information booklet and website was objectionable under the McKenna principles, it ruled that the cumulative effect of matters identified in these materials, and set out in its judgement, amounts to a clear disregard of the McKenna principles.   

  The judgement in McKenna stated that the Government has a duty to give information to the electorate as well as to clarify issues which may arise in the course of the campaign, and must do so without advocating a particular position. It has in fact carried out this role in other Referendums since the McKenna Judgement. The Government welcomes the fact that the Supreme Court has, for the first time since the judgement in 1995, provided some guidelines on the application of this important principle.

  The Court unanimously acknowledged that the principle enunciated in the McKenna judgement stands as firm as ever, but the modes through which information is conveyed are very different to those which were operating in 1995. The Court has found that the Government, in attempting to fulfil this duty to inform the people, strayed beyond the boundary of the provision of information to the electorate.   

  The Court found that the Government at all times acted in a bona fide manner, and all the publications were issued with a view to informing the electorate about the referendum. That being said the failures identified by the Supreme Court are fully acknowledged and greatly regretted.

  I readily accept that we have to look at, and implement, the lessons to be learned from how we got here in terms of the referendum process, as regards the successful legal challenge to the Government’s information campaign. The Government has stated that it is carefully studying the Supreme Court Judgement which clarifies how the Government can make information available to the electorate during a referendum.

Child Care Services Provision

 95. Deputy Éamon Ó Cuív Information on Éamon Ó Cuív Zoom on Éamon Ó Cuív asked the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs Information on Frances Fitzgerald Zoom on Frances Fitzgerald her plans for the community childcare subvention programme in 2013; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [56707/12]

Minister for Children and Youth Affairs (Deputy Frances Fitzgerald): Information on Frances Fitzgerald Zoom on Frances Fitzgerald The Community Childcare Subvention (CCS) programme provides funding to community childcare not-for-profit services to enable them to charge reduced childcare rates to parents in receipt of social welfare payments or on low to middle incomes. Community childcare services qualify for grant aid on the basis of the level of service they provide and the profile of the parents benefiting from their service.

For the purpose of the CCS programme, eligibility is determined by reference to a range of means-tested allowances and payments including receipt of a social welfare payment, Family Income Supplement (FIS) and qualification for a medical or GP visit card. Eligibility for a GP visit card is based on net income and takes account of outgoings such as rent and mortgage repayments and other expenses including childcare costs and travelling expenses. As a result, low and middle income working parents may qualify for support. Parents who qualify for the top rate of subvention under the programme receive a subsidy of €95 per week towards full-day childcare costs.

My Department is also responsible for implementing the Childcare Education and Training Support (CETS) programme, which provides subsidised childcare qualifying parents on approved VEC and FÁS education and training courses. In 2013, my Department expects to spend almost €71 million on both the CCS and CETS programmes, supporting over 30,000 childcare places.

Despite the need to achieve expenditure savings across all Government departments, I am very pleased to note that funding for the CCS and CETS programmes in 2013 will be maintained at very close to 2012 levels. These programmes provide important supports to parents in employment, training and education, as well as supporting quality childcare provision. The Government's commitment in this regard is demonstrated by the fact that, a new After-School Childcare scheme will be introduced in early 2013.

The new After-School Childcare scheme is intended to support parents entering employment by providing over 6,000 quality after-school places for children attending primary school. The scheme will receive annual funding of €14 million and places are expected to become available on an interim basis from early 2013, with the full roll-out of the programme commencing in September 2013.

I would also note that my Department implements the universal free Pre-School Year in Early Childhood Care and Education (ECCE) programme, under which all children have equal access to free pre-school education in the year before commencing primary school. Some 65,000 children are currently availing of the ECCE programme at an annual cost of some €175 million.

Child Protection Guidelines

 96. Deputy Denis Naughten Information on Denis Naughten Zoom on Denis Naughten asked the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs Information on Frances Fitzgerald Zoom on Frances Fitzgerald if she will confirm that all childcare services provided by persons employed outside the child's own home will be subject to the provisions of the Children First Bill; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [56534/12]

Minister for Children and Youth Affairs (Deputy Frances Fitzgerald): Information on Frances Fitzgerald Zoom on Frances Fitzgerald The Children First National Guidance for the Protection and Welfare of Children, which I published in 2011, provides clarity and guidance for individuals and organisations in identifying and responding appropriately to child abuse and neglect. It also sets out what organisations that care for or work with children should do to ensure they are safe whilst in the care of the organisation. The Government has committed, as a priority, to the introduction of legislation to underpin Children First.

The Deputy will be aware that I published the Heads of the Children First Bill   in April 2012. The purpose of publishing the Heads was to allow for a full consultation at an early stage in the developing the Bill.

  I asked the Joint Oireachtas Committee on Health and Children to consider the Heads of the Children First Bill and make recommendations. I received their comprehensive Report in July and my Department is currently considering the broad range of submissions to, and recommendations of the Joint Committee.

Adoption Legislation

 97. Deputy Clare Daly Information on Clare Daly Zoom on Clare Daly asked the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs Information on Frances Fitzgerald Zoom on Frances Fitzgerald if, in relation to the promised Adoption (Information and Tracing) Bill and access to records by adult victims of illegal adoptions, she will ensure that the rights of the person, against whom a crime has been committed, to establish their identity shall supersede any claimed constitutional right to privacy of any other person. [56669/12]

 98. Deputy Clare Daly Information on Clare Daly Zoom on Clare Daly asked the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs Information on Frances Fitzgerald Zoom on Frances Fitzgerald if she will publish a list of the known location of adoption records and ensure that these records are immediately protected and secured. [56668/12]

Minister for Children and Youth Affairs (Deputy Frances Fitzgerald): Information on Frances Fitzgerald Zoom on Frances Fitzgerald I propose to take Questions Nos. 97 and 98 together.

  I refer to my Department's response to the Deputy's question No. 18 (Ref. 46753/12) of 25th October last which answers the questions raised here.

  As stated, it is then intended that the Heads of Bill will provide that the Adoption Authority of Ireland (AAI) is to have responsibility for ensuring that access to those records is provided to an adopted person or to a birth parent, in accordance with the Bill. As all persons have a constitutional right to privacy it is envisaged that there may be some restrictions on the information that could be made available without the consent of the parties involved.

  The draft legislation on information and tracing envisages the AAI having responsibility for the registering of all adoption records. In that context the AAI will   coordinate the records and their location in due course.

National Children's Strategy

 99. Deputy Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin Information on Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin Zoom on Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin asked the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs Information on Frances Fitzgerald Zoom on Frances Fitzgerald if she will list the 20% of actions from the National Children Strategy that have not been completed; and the reason that they have not been completed [56767/12]

Minister for Children and Youth Affairs (Deputy Frances Fitzgerald): Information on Frances Fitzgerald Zoom on Frances Fitzgerald As I stated in a reply to a Parliamentary Question on 25 October 2012, a review of the National Children's Strategy by the Children's Rights Alliance - an independent umbrella group of NGOs which campaign on behalf of children and youth rights - found that over 80% of the National Children's Strategy's 136 Actions have been either achieved or made some progress by February 2011.

The 23 actions which were not in this category (16.9% of the total) comprised 13 actions (9.6%) where the action had not been achieved at that date, and a further 10 actions (7.4%) where the Alliance stated that they "cannot measure program or context has changed and it is no longer valid or relevant".

The Alliance is completely independent of my Department and I would not be in a position to say how it might view subsequent progress. However I would note that there are actions where there has been significant progress since 2011, for example in the recent Budget announcement of €20.4m in Capital funding for the development of a National Detention Facility at Oberstown.

My Department is drafting a Children and Young Person Policy Framework, which will succeed the National Children's Strategy and has been subject to very extensive public consultation with children and youth organisations (including the Children's Rights Alliance), children and young people, and the general public, and this Framework will consider progress made under the National Children's Strategy.

Domestic Violence Incidence

 100. Deputy Catherine Murphy Information on Catherine Murphy Zoom on Catherine Murphy asked the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs Information on Frances Fitzgerald Zoom on Frances Fitzgerald if she will outline her responsibility in relation to children who require the services of domestic violence shelters; if she will confirm that all domestic violence shelters which cater for children as well as adults meet Health Information and Quality Authority standards; if she will outline the cooperation her Department has with the Department of Health in this matter; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [56651/12]

Minister for Children and Youth Affairs (Deputy Frances Fitzgerald): Information on Frances Fitzgerald Zoom on Frances Fitzgerald At the outset, I would like to clarify that responsibility for domestic violence rests with COSC, under the aegis of the Department of Justice and Equality. In so far as the HSE provides domestic violence services, responsibility falls within the remit of the Department of Health.

As regards the application of the HIQA National Standards for the Protection and Welfare of Children, I wish to outline the position regarding these standards. In July 2010, the Government decided to prioritise the inspection of the HSE’s child protection service by Health Information Quality Authority (HIQA). The first of these inspections took place recently and are undertaken against standards developed by HIQA as provided for by the Health Act 2007. As part of the inspection process, HIQA inspects the HSE’s child protection service at all levels, from national management to social work team level.

HIQA has no role in inspecting domestic violence shelters. The National Standards apply to the HSE Children and Families services in the context of its role in dealing with all referrals to its service, including referrals regarding children living in direct provision accommodation. HIQA currently inspects all residential services run by the HSE for children who are in the care of the state. HIQA does not inspect the accommodation provided under the Direct Provision system or other similar services such as homeless services or refuges for those experiencing domestic violence. Children living in the direct provision system are not in the care of the State. All live in a family context and their parents/guardians have the primary responsibility for their care and welfare.

  Question No. 101 answered with Question No. 84.

Child Poverty

 102. Deputy Thomas P. Broughan Information on Thomas P. Broughan Zoom on Thomas P. Broughan asked the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs Information on Frances Fitzgerald Zoom on Frances Fitzgerald if she will report on the recent funding awarded under Budget 2013 to the Preparing for Life Programme in Belcamp, Moatview and Darndale, Dublin 17; the amount of funding that has been awarded to the programme each year until 2015; the projects that will be prioritised; the number of children eligible to participate in the programme in future; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [56648/12]

Minister for Children and Youth Affairs (Deputy Frances Fitzgerald): Information on Frances Fitzgerald Zoom on Frances Fitzgerald I welcome the new ‘Area Based Approach to Child Poverty’ initiative for which €2.5 million has been provided for in the 2013 Estimates. This investment supports a key Programme for Government objective and demonstrates this Government’s commitment to early intervention to support childhood development and tackle child poverty. I know that early intervention improves life chances for children and families. This is even truer in communities with high levels of disadvantage and joblessness. This new initiative will draw upon existing community strengths and efforts already underway.

This initiative will build on and continue the work of the Prevention and Early Intervention Programme (PEIP) which supports projects in Tallaght, Ballymun and Darndale. These projects involve a range of pilot programmes to improve outcomes in areas such as literacy, speech and language, parenting, health and pro-social behaviour. These programmes are currently being evaluated by national and international experts. I believe that it is important that we mainstream the learning from these pilot projects so that proven and effective supports for children and families could be delivered right through the country, including through the range of services to be provided by the new Child & Family Support Agency.

The new initiative reflects the Programme for Government commitment to adopt an area based approach to child poverty in co-operation with philanthropic partners, drawing upon best international practice and existing services, to break the cycle of child poverty where it is most deeply entrenched. In line with this commitment, my Department in conjunction with the Office of the Tanáiste and the Departments of Social Protection, Environment, Community and Local Government, and Education and Skills will work in 2013 to expand the number of project sites from 3 to 6. The new initiative will not simply be a continuation of the PEIP scheme but will instead seek to implement programmes which have already been evaluated and proven to work in improving outcomes for children and families at risk of disadvantage,

It is envisaged that this initiative will be co-funded by a philanthropic organisation and discussions are ongoing to this end. It will not be possible in advance of the completion of these talks to know the final total funding levels including the co-funding component.

It is anticipated that discussions will be held with the organisation referred to in the Question in the early part of 2013, regarding funding and services to be delivered as part of this Initiative.

Child Care Services Provision

 103. Deputy Brendan Smith Information on Brendan Smith Zoom on Brendan Smith asked the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs Information on Frances Fitzgerald Zoom on Frances Fitzgerald her plans to regulate all paid child minders; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [56709/12]

Minister for Children and Youth Affairs (Deputy Frances Fitzgerald): Information on Frances Fitzgerald Zoom on Frances Fitzgerald My Department has begun work on Ireland’s first Early Years Strategy which will provide an innovative and dynamic blueprint for the future development of Ireland’s Early Years sector aimed at providing a coherent approach to seeking to improve the lives of children from birth to age six.

One of the issues of policy which I have identified for consideration in the preparation of the new Strategy is the development of the childminding sector as a fully-integrated component of early childhood care and education, in particular for the under-one age group.

At present pre-school services are regulated under the Child Care (Pre-School Services) (No.2) Regulations 2006, as provided for under Part VII of the Child Care Act 1991.

Services providing care for children who have not yet commenced primary school are required to notify their service to the Pre-School Inspectorate of the Health Service Executive (HSE) and are subject to inspection and report by the Inspectorate on a regular basis. Services covered by the Regulations include full-time, part-time and sessional services as well as childminders taking care of more than three pre-school children from different families in the childminder’s home.

The National Guidelines for Childminders, compiled by the National Childcare Co-ordinating Committee which oversees the development of an integrated childcare infrastructure throughout the country, provide guidance to childminders on good practice, and assists them to decide whether they are subject to the Regulations, as well as providing other useful information on the role of the childminder in the provision of childcare services.

As is the case with all regulatory requirements, the Child Care Regulations set the minimum standards which services are legally required to comply with. However, my Department is pro-active in monitoring, promoting and developing the highest standards of care and education throughout the sector, including the regulatory environment, given the important role which these services play in this crucial phase of children’s lives.

Health Services Staff Recruitment

 104. Deputy John Browne Information on John Browne Zoom on John Browne asked the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs Information on Frances Fitzgerald Zoom on Frances Fitzgerald the number of additional social workers for children that will be appointed in 2013; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [56683/12]

Minister for Children and Youth Affairs (Deputy Frances Fitzgerald): Information on Frances Fitzgerald Zoom on Frances Fitzgerald The HSE has made considerable progress over recent years in recruiting additional social workers, with over 260 social workers recruited under the Ryan Implementation Plan at end 2011.

Work is ongoing within the HSE on the disaggregation of the Children and Families resource base from the HSE as part of the process of establishing the Child and Family Support Agency in early 2013. Consequently the number of social workers assigned to the Children and Families Service area is subject to change as the mapping/classification of posts into care groups will continue to be further refined between now and the establishment of the new agency. Once the Agency is established, the Chief Executive designate, Gordon Jeyes, will have the discretion to fill vacant posts across all grades, including social workers, taking account of identified need and subject to services being delivered within available resources.

  Question No. 105 answered with Question No. 74.

Child Abuse Issues

 106. Deputy Denis Naughten Information on Denis Naughten Zoom on Denis Naughten asked the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs Information on Frances Fitzgerald Zoom on Frances Fitzgerald when the audit produced on foot of the recommendations in the report on the Roscommon Child Care Case will be published; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [56533/12]

Minister for Children and Youth Affairs (Deputy Frances Fitzgerald): Information on Frances Fitzgerald Zoom on Frances Fitzgerald The audit report was submitted to the HSE’s National Director for Children and Family Services, Mr. Gordon Jeyes at end-October, 2012. The National Director expects to be in a position to publish the report within the coming weeks.

  The report is a composite work covering three audits in Roscommon, Waterford and Dublin. A decision was taken within the HSE to produce this composite report as the best means of disseminating the learning from the three projects. The report will be based on a sample of 30 cases examined from each of the three areas subject to audit.

  I advised in responses to previous parliamentary questions that an external consultant conducted a Review of Practice and Audit of the Management of Cases of Neglect in Roscommon, which highlighted both strengths and challenges. Positive outcomes included:

Well established multi-disciplinary arrangements and organisational structures which facilitated teamwork and communication;

Initial assessments routinely completed;

An emphasis on direct work with children and young persons and commitment to listening to children and ensuring their voices were heard.

The Review found that in a majority of the cases, staff and managers displayed a commitment to early assessment of need and provided a range of supports to assist children and families, resulting in improved parenting capacity and better outcomes for children.   The Review concluded that the challenges involved are similar throughout Ireland and the United Kingdom including the need for more authoritative social work, senior managers reviewing and auditing files, national supervision policy implementation and establishing thresholds for legal intervention in cases.

A Review of Progress was undertaken after three months, and again this had many positive outcomes. Achievements included:

- The recommendations of the Inquiry Report and the Review of Practice and Management of Neglect are being implemented via an Interdisciplinary Child Care Steering group;

- A monthly child care meeting chaired by the General Manager considers specific developments within the Child Care Service, including budgetary and resourcing issues, waiting lists and individual cases which require to be notified to senior management;

- The streamlining of Family Support Services to include a single point of entry and realignment across new social work boundaries.

Children's Rights Referendum

 107. Deputy Michael Colreavy Information on Michael Colreavy Zoom on Michael Colreavy asked the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs Information on Frances Fitzgerald Zoom on Frances Fitzgerald her views on the McCrystal judgement in the Supreme Court last week; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [56782/12]

Minister for Children and Youth Affairs (Deputy Frances Fitzgerald): Information on Frances Fitzgerald Zoom on Frances Fitzgerald I have said on many occasions before now, and remain firmly of the view, that Saturday 10th November was a historic day for the children and families of this country. I believe that the decision the people made on that day has the potential to benefit children in legislative, practice and cultural changes relating to the protection and welfare of children and the support of families through many years to come.

  The Supreme Court identified two primary issues in the appeal by Mr. McCrystal against the decision of the High Court. First of these was a consideration of the test to be applied to trigger court intervention. Secondly, an application of the test and the McKenna principles to the material published by my Department. The Court considered, and pronounced on, the inherent characteristics of the McKenna case and how a ‘clear disregard’ of these would be identified. It considered ‘clear disregard’ to be an objective test and ruled that the High Court had erred in the test it had applied by way of a breach being blatant and egregious. While in its application of the test, the Court noted that not everything in the advertisements, information booklet and website was objectionable under the McKenna principles, it ruled that the cumulative effect of matters identified in these materials, and set out in its judgement, amounts to a clear disregard of the McKenna principles.   

The judgement in McKenna stated that the Government has a duty to give information to the electorate as well as to clarify issues which may arise in the course of the campaign, and must do so without advocating a particular position. It has in fact carried out this role in other Referendums since the McKenna Judgement. The Government welcomes the fact that the Supreme Court has, for the first time since the judgement in 1995, provided some guidelines on the application of this important principle.

  The Court unanimously acknowledged that the principle enunciated in the McKenna judgement stands as firm as ever, but the modes through which information is conveyed are very different to those which were operating in 1995. The Court has found that the Government, in attempting to fulfil this duty to inform the people, strayed beyond the boundary of the provision of information to the electorate.   

  The Court found that the Government at all times acted in a bona fide manner  , and all the publications were issued with a view to informing the electorate about the referendum. That being said the failures identified by the Supreme Court are fully acknowledged and greatly regretted.

  I readily accept that we have to look at, and implement, the lessons to be learned from how we got here in terms of the referendum process, as regards the successful legal challenge to the Government’s information campaign. The Government has stated that it is carefully studying the Supreme Court Judgement which clarifies how the Government can make information available to the electorate during a referendum.


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