Interview: Chairman of Referendum Commission #oiref

Judge Bryan McMahonThe Referendum on Oireachtas Committee of Inquiries (Amendment 30) has shades of the ‘House Un-American Activities Committee’ of infamy during the USA’s McCartyite Era

It is the view of thefuture Initiative that these powers are far in excess of what any Government inner circle should ever have – they replace the role of independent courts and attack the rights of citizens in a critical manner – there will be judgement by political forces on any questions that they choose to address.

The Peoples Movement have circulated the following regarding the interview on the Morning Ireland radio programme (20/10/2011) with Judge Bryan McMahon, Chairman of Referendum Commission.

“We had unfortunate experiences with referendum commissions in the past, most notably during the Lisbon Treaty referendums and so we might consider that Judge McMahon would not lightly criticise a referendum proposed by the government of the day. However, any reading of the interview must point towards a rejection of the proposal; a position that can only be reinforced by the call today from the seven former Attorney Generals of all political hues, to do likewise.”

A .PDF copy of the Interview with Judge Bryan McMahon can be downloaded here.

In one of two referendums being held today week we are being asked to add into the Constitution giving powers of inquiry to Oireachtas Committees. At present their powers are not defined in the Constitution. If we vote yes they will be described in 3 new clauses which Brian Jennings is going to read for us now.

The proposed new wording will be added into Article 15.10 starting with subsection 2

2 Each House shall have the power to conduct an inquiry, or an inquiry with the other House, in a manner provided for by law, into any matter stated by the House or Houses concerned to be of general public importance.

3 In the course of any such inquiry the conduct of any person (whether or not a member of either House) may be investigated and the House or Houses concerned may make findings in respect of the conduct of that person concerning the matter to which the inquiry relates.

4 It shall be for the House or Houses concerned to determine, with due regard to the principles of fair procedures, the appropriate balance between the rights of persons and the public interest for the purposes of ensuring an effective inquiry into any matter to which subsection 2 applies.


  1. The Government can make inquiry into the conduct of persons and also make findings which might be adverse to that persons reputation.
  2. We don’t know what powers of inquiry the Houses are going to have because all we have is a bill which purports to set out what the Government say they will do if these proposals are passed….. the powers of such inquiries will be what the Government decide they are.
  3. There is no obligation on the Government to follow through with the draft as presented. It is probable that the government would change its mind on certain provisions in that draft bill as it proceeded through the Oireachtas.
  4. It’s not confined to any particular category of individuals. Any person can be investigated in these committees.
  5. Clause 3 of this amendment if passed, would significantly restrict the ability of the courts to protect the rights of any person being investigated by an Oireachtas committee
  6. The question of legal representation or any other fair procedure rights are now transferred to the Houses, who would determine the balance between the rights of the individual and the rights of the inquiry.