[Sinn Fein]

14th December 2001

Referendum Bill is ``rule of the bully''

Sinn Fein TD Caoimhghín Ó Caolain has accused the government of adopting the ``rule of the bully'' in pushing its Referendum Bill through the Dail. The Bill effectively abolishes the Referendum Commission and its role of presenting arguments on both sides in referendum campaigns. Deputy Ó Caolain said:

"This Referendum Bill is a gross abuse of power by the government. It is the rule of the bully - if your opponent defeats you fair and square and by the rules then change the rules. The government parties, along with Fine Gael and Labour, were defeated in the Nice Treaty referendum. Rather than accept and act upon the decision of the electorate the government has tried to explain away that decision and has found a scapegoat in the Referendum Commission.

"This Bill has nothing to do with the actual operation of the Referendum Commission. This is all about circumventing the McKenna judgement and fixing the outcome of the next referendum on Nice. All of the major parties will be united in support of a Yes vote and will have access to increased State funding to fight their campaigns as a result of other legislation this year.

"If the outcome of Nice Mark 1 had been different this shameful Bill would never have seen the light of day. But you cannot fool all of the people all of the time. Clearly the electorate trusted the impartial Referendum Commission more than they trusted the unholy alliance on the Yes side. Now they see the government effectively abolishing the Referendum Commission. I believe the people will make their judgement.

"I reject this Bill as a gross abuse of power and an attack on democracy."

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