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Sinn Féin to publish bill ending Court delays in Referendum Petitions

16 July, 2015 - by Gerry Adams, Pádraig Mac Lochlainn

Sinn Féin President, Deputy Gerry Adams, and party Spokesperson on Justice and Equality, Deputy Pádraig Mac Lochlainn have today published a Bill that seeks to end Court delays in deciding on referendum petitions.

The Sinn Féin bill was published in response to the recent news that the legislation providing for Marriage Equality will be considerably delayed. This delay could potentially last over a year until the courts decide on the outcome of a referendum petition challenging the decision of the referendum.

Speaking in the Dáil today, Deputy Mac Lochlainn said:

“On the 22nd of May this year, the people of Ireland expressed their democratic will and overwhelmingly voted in favour of Marriage Equality.

“But it appears that the will of the people may be subject to indefinite delay as the Courts deal with a petition challenging the outcome of the referendum.

 “While it is the right of a citizen to initiate such a petition, this is not the first time that a petition to a referendum has resulted in a lengthy delay to citizens being afforded the protection of their newly recognised rights.”

“The Children’s Referendum was passed on the 10th November 2012 and the High Court only reached a decision on the petition on the 24th of April this year. That’s a two and a half year delay.”

“This Bill seeks to amend the Referendum Act 1994 to provide that the High Court will ordinarily make a finding on such a petition within 90 days of such a petition being heard.

“It further provides that where such a finding is challenged by way of appeal, the Supreme Court shall endeavour to make a finding on a petition no later than 90 days from the date upon which an appeal is lodged.”

“This gives the Courts a clear timeframe within which to ordinarily deal with any petition, while retaining the necessary flexibility that the administration of justice requires.”

“There is nothing that can trump the democratic will of the people. The arms of the State, at all times, must protect this above all else. That is why we are asking the Government to support our Bill to end such delays.”

Speaking on the Bill, Teachta Gerry Adams stated that the legislation will provide the Court with a reasonable timeframe to ensure that the will of the people is not subject to bureaucratic delays that undermine democracy.

“Referenda are the core of the democracy. They provide a platform for citizen’s voices to be heard and acted upon. This Bill will give further protection to citizens’ democratic rights.”

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