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Friday, 12 December 2014

Update 29 Referendum Challenge -- Children's Rights

From Kathy Sinnot in Ireland.

Last week, the Supreme Court hearing began  in the appeal to the High Court findings in the Jordan challenge to the so called "Childrens Rights" referendum. (This is an unnecessary and dangerous possible law which would take authority away from parents and give it to the Irish government.)

I was able to attend on Monday 1st December  the first day. it went on until Thursday and as it did not finish, the court has granted a few more hours on December 18 at 11:15 am. All welcome.

Joanna Jordan has kindly sent a summary of the four days of hearing which you will find  below.

All those who attended last week seem to feel that the judges were taking the matter very seriously.  From my day in court and the reports of the others days, I am hopeful that the Supreme Court will uphold our right to fair and free referenda and recognize that the referendum of November 2012 was anything but fair and free.

If so we have to be prepared to engage in a rerun. All to prepare and pray for....

Joanna Jordan's  eyewitness account of the  Supreme Court hearing December 1 to 4, 2014.

"Day 1: The case is being judged by seven Justices, three woman and four men. Looking at the dais from left to right sits Justices Laffroy, Clark, Hardeman, Chief Justice Denham, O’ Donnell, MacMeniman and Dunne. These are the people who hold the fate of all Irish families in their hands. Please pray for them. They are the most important people in the country at the moment.

Our Senior Council is up first, Paul Sreenan. The judges asked for the books of extracts which we promised. We had them prepared but the offices of the Supreme Court refused to accept them. Now we were able to hand them up after lunch.

The Chief Justice asked; “what did we want the court to look at?” Paul outlined the three High Court judgements which went against us. All three of these, were what we wanted looked at by the Supreme Court. The petition, because the judgement was too severe, expecting evidence to be “convincing and definitive”. This is a higher standard than the balance of probabilities requirement. The Plenary because the burden of proof was unfairly placed on our side where it is almost impossible to achieve. We said it should be shifted to the proven wrong doers, the Minister for Children. Also the cost judgement, where no cost were awarded in the plenary and 1/3 in the petition. This makes it very difficult for an average citizen to take a case in the public interest.

In the afternoon Mr. Sreenan went through the history of the Referendum and Electoral Acts.

Day 2 Paul Sreenan S.C. continued. As the law stands, we can only win the Petition, if we can prove that the wrong doing ; “materially affected the result of the referendum as a whole”. If we win in this  the Judges would have to order a rerun and set a date for same. Proving this is really difficult if not impossible. Paul put forward the argument that material affect is only needed at the leave stage that is the point at which the High Court gives us permission to take the petition case because it accepts a serious breach of referendum protocol took place that. (We were grant leave by the High Court) He also brought to the attention of the judges that, in the discovery documents, there was a email from RTE stating that some of the phrases in the preposed government booklet and advertising “ could breach the broadcasting Act”. In other words the Minister for Children had been warned that her so called information campaign was problematic.

After lunch Niamh Hyland S.C. Told the judges about the survey conducted by the Referendum Commission after the vote and the B&A surveys taken in 2012 before the Referendum commissioned by the Dept. of Children. She reviewed some of the evidence and brought out the unfairness of the burden of proof being laid on the citizen as we were not the ones who did wrong.

Day 3: Michael Collins S.C. For the Minister for Children stood up. He reiterated that the Minister  did wrong but not intentionally and maintained that the wrong doing did not affect the outcome of the Referendum as a whole. He went into detail about all the judgements in the unsuccessful Hanafin referendum challenge. Implying that this case was the definitive case and no change was needed after that. There was talk about an Annulment of the Referendum Certificate.This could happen if the Referendum Act could be shown to be unconstitutional. Much talk of the statistics casting doubt over the results.

Day 4:Michael Collins finishing. Continuing to knock the evidence of our experts. Pointing out that the department had not intended to break the McKenna Principles.

Maurice Collins S.C. for Dept. of Children next. Went into great details about judgements prior to and including Hanafin. Read lots of these out in court. Did not finish on time. The Judges have given us another half day on th 18th of December at 11.15 to finish up Mr. Collins and our summation.

All through out the four days the Judges asked very good and probing questions. They are very much engaged with the case and aware of it's importance. Please keep praying for them, that they will come up with the best possible judgement for our country and all the present and future families in it."

To Donate for the Case
By Post.
Referendum Challenge
C/o Kathy Sinnott
St Joseph
Co Cork

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