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23 October 1997 Edition

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Vote No in the forgotten referendum

There is a referendum to amend the constitution in the 26 Counties on the same day as the presidential election next week. Not many people know that. This referendum is the best kept secret in years. Only in the past few days has the government taken any measures to inform the public of what they are being asked to do with the constitution.

The issue is Cabinet confidentially. It dates back to 1988 when the Fianna Fáil Attorney-General went to the High Court to stop the Beef Tribunal from inquiring into Fianna Fáil Cabinet decisions on export credit insurance to Iraq. The High Court rejected the Attorney-General's request but the Supreme Court allowed it and copperfastened Cabinet confidentiality.

The present referendum is designed supposedly to relax that outright ban on revelations of Cabinet proceedings. But its main purpose seems to be to facilitate the upcoming Moriarty Tribunal on payments to Charles Haughey and Michael Lowry. Not for the first time the electorate is being asked to insert into the constitution a wording based on short-term expediency rather than long-standing principles. The proposed amendment seems unnecessarily sweeping and could, for example, make unconsitutional the publication by former Cabinet members of memoirs, historical accounts and diaries, even if the publication was long after the event.

There has been no real debate and less real information supplied by the proposers of this consititional change. They have rejected the option of postponing the referendum until the Amsterdam Treaty referendum next year. As an opion poll showed last week the public wants openness not more secrecy, with 72 per cent favouring access to all relevant Cabinet information.

For these reasons alone you should vote NO on 30 October.

Clear battle lines



The candidacy of Mary McAleese has brought some clarity into politics. It has exposed those who are working to keep Ireland partitioned. It has always been known to republicans that Democratic Left and Fine Gael and their allies are unionists at heart. But by attacking Mary McAleese these partitionists have proved to a much wider audience the depth of their hatred of nationalism. They have always been the enemies of the peace process because they recognise that it heralds the end of their conservative, colonialist vision.

It is to be welcomed that an election in which republicans had little or no interest has now shone light on the enemies of a united, peaceful Ireland.

An Phoblacht Magazine

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