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A Blog About Human Rights
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"A flaky website that purports to be ?leftist,? The Cedar Lounge Revolution, occasionally makes a relevant point or two."
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Life should be full of strangeness, like a rich painting
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Vote NO to the Two Referendums on Thursday
Vote NO to reduce judges' pay | Vote NO to give the government MORE POWER
"it shall be for the house (Dail and Senate) to determine the appropriate balance between the rights of persons and the public interest..." Okay this is pretty basic - A referendum is needed every time a government wishes to change our constitution - this is because the constitution theoretically exists to protect people from the excesses of any government i.e. any elected government can only work within the confines of what the constitution sets out. This means the constitution belongs to the citizens (i.e. us) not the Government. Whatever government is in power has to get our permission to change it. Lots of things in our constitution are outdated and need to be changed BUT and it's a big BUT we should be really careful of letting it be changed for trivial issues.
The two referenda that we are being asked to vote on on Oct 27th are both asking for a transfer of power from the people, us, to the government - that's at its simplest, they are asking us to give them new powers.
So the first question is: are we willing to transfer more of citizens' power to the government at this time? My answer is NO - it is far easier to relinquish rights and entitlements than it is to campaign to get them back, so unless we are totally convinced that change is needed then we shouldn't change it.
The first question we are being asked is: can the government reduce judges pay in certain circumstances.. (That's a paraphrasing.) Whilst I think judges could well afford to earn less, I think the government should not be given any opportunities to exert influence over our judicial system - we need judges to be independent and not open to perceived threats from Governments.
If do we want their pay to be able to be reduced then a differently worded and structured change is needed that lets someone independent set the salaries of the judiciary (like an ombudsman or a independent board). The second issue with this first question is that the wording that this government is asking us to insert in the constitution is very flawed and imprecise - the small amount that might be saved by judges' pay being cut would easily be outweighed by the amount the state (that's us (i.e. taxpayers money)) will have to spend on defending the many interpretations that good lawyers or barristers can advance. So if I have confused you- we are saying NO to this one because (a) the principle of judicial independence is really important and (b) because the wording is shoddy and will/may cause problems or court cases in the future.
The second question is way more serious and again is being marketed as a money saving plan - i.e. the government can run it's own investigations into matters of public importance and as they are telling us that way they would be able to avoid expensive tribunals. But if we allow them the power to run these investigations then they would be able to make findings about 'ANY PERSON'S CONDUCT'.
Now the reasons that this really has to be given a NO vote by any thinking person is that it seems in its wording to be an attempt to change the constitution to remove some of people's most basic human/civil rights - the right to a fair trial, the right to be considered innocent until proven guilty in a court of law, the right to a good name etc. Now I am not a conspiracy theorist and even if you are the biggest fan of the current government, bear in mind that this change to the constitution will outlast this and probably many more governments. Once this dangerous change is made it would take another referendum to remove it so again even if you trust Irish governments with this power it is very unwise to give away such a basic set of guiding principles that belong to us, and put them in the hands of the elected government or any future elected government - however good their intentions may be.
Note that also as this wording would seem to contradict various other treaties we are signed up to as a country (ECHR, etc.) it is quite possible that if and when the government attempts to open an enquiry into any individual that that individual would be able to tie them up in court room wrangling for a very long time because of these 'competing' rights.
So therefore something that purports to save the Irish public from expensive enquiries could actually cost us a fortune.
Also and it's the last point on this, supposedly the Irish Constitution is the highest law of the land = i.e. if law was a game of paper scissors stone then the constitution should trump all the other various laws. However, a while back Michael Mc Dowell of the PDs made a complete hames of incorporating the European Convention on Human Rights into our constitution and so as a result judges have been very perplexed by trying to establish that when our constitution and the Convention (ECHR) contradict each other which one should win out - this means that in cases such as these enquiries the government is asking our permission to be able to run our courts, and the Court of Human Rights at Strasbourg could very easily spend years trying to figure out if each case is in fact legal.
So this change to our constitution is unlikely to help us get swift justice or accountability no matter what the government says. In terms of our own personal civil rights just have a look at some of the wording below - and remember it's far easier to vote NO than regret or undo the changes.
For this one I'll give you some of the wording (if anyone wants the rest, http://www.referendum2011.ie/).
So the government proposes to insert the following text into article 15.10
[...] each house (that means the Dail or the Senate) shall have the power to conduct an enquiry... into any matter of general public importance (that's a paraphrase there).
In the course of such an enquiry the conduct of any person (whether or not they are an elected politician) may be investigated and the houses may make findings in respect of their conduct.
Okay so the third bit - which I have the biggest issue with says;
"it shall be for the house (Dail and Senate) to determine the appropriate balance between the rights of persons and the public interest..."
Anyway NO to both is what I'm saying.