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Thread: The Costs of Referenda (€17-22m): should we be slower to amend the Constitution?

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    Default The Costs of Referenda (€17-22m): should we be slower to amend the Constitution?

    Below is the reply to Dail question, as to the cost of holding a referendum and comments by the Minister for Finance as to holding multiple question referenda. As is obvious, it is cheaper per question to hold many questions than to have a series of questions. But the cost of each additional question would appear to be the postal expenses and the Referendum Commission (how can they be so high?). I assume that multiple question referenda will have only one ballot paper, to reduce the cost of printing the ballots.

    But to contrast those costs, with one referendum to reduce the pay of the Judiciary.
    Nominally it would save €5.5m p.a. from the Jugdes' pay bill, as €38,000 per judge is reduced. Except of course, at least 5 out of 7 Judges have already volunteered to take such a pay cut, so the saving is already built in. In addition, as the State collects tax on this sums at 52%, the saving for 35 judges who have not taken the cuts is:
    (€38,000 x35)48%= €638,400. It is not an inconsiderable sum, but if all new judges start on lower pay and the expenses regime is tackled, there would be far greater savings than the net benefit from holding a referendum.

    The Government also plans to have a Constitutional Commission to consider other Constitutional amendments. Some would be beyond price-taggery such as removing the embarrassment that is the Preamble, providing for marriage equality and reducing the number of TDs, but are some of the other proposed referenda just not worth the bother, time, distraction and above all, money?


    66. Deputy Finian McGrath asked the Minister for Finance the estimated cost of holding a referendum or multiple referenda [17965/11]

    Minister for Finance (Deputy Michael Noonan) (Deputy Michael Noonan): The following table gives the cost of the two most recent referendums: Lisbon 1, 12 June 2008 and Lisbon 2, 2 October 2009.

    Lisbon I Lisbon II
    €(000) €(000)
    To conduct the election including the
    printing of ballot papers and supply/delivery
    of election material the bulk of this figure is
    paid to Returning Officers’ to conduct the election. 13,641 12,662

    Postal Expenses 3,540 1,703
    Referendum Commission 4,990 3,096
    Total Cost 22,171 17,461
    Dαil Ιireann - 29/Jun/2011 Written Answers No. 62-75 - Departmental Expenditure



    The holding of a multiple question referendum would entail additional costs. Each question would entail a separate Referendum Commission and additional costs for conducting the count. There may be some economies of scale in procurement terms; the cost of a referendum commission is directly related to the complexity of the referendum proposal and the nature and scale of the information campaign necessary to ensure that the public are informed of the proposal. While it would not be possible at present to accurately calculate this additional cost, economies of scale and the fact that many costs would not be duplicated, would indicate that additional costs would be far less than for separate referendums.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Con Gallagher View Post
    But are some of the other proposed referenda just not worth the bother, time, distraction and above all, money?
    While I welcomed the Quenn's visit and the healing of old wounds that resulted from her vist, the work of gaining complete indepence is not yet complete. If the proposed referendum on judicial pay is seen as a national pbebiscite on our judicial system its democratic value is far higher than the € figures under discussion.

    The Swiss have referenda every year. "The people has decided, the people is right" is the fundamental democratic principle in Switzerland. It is not clear who was the first Swiss politician to state this basic principle of a referendum democracy (be it from the depths of his heart or with some resignation after a lost referendum campaign). Most Swiss politicians would accept this statement, however, in public because they know all too well that politicians publicly claiming to be smarter than the people cannot survive in Switzerland's political system. Referendums in Switzerland's System of Direct Democracy

    We in Ireland inherited our justice and judicial system from the British and nothing has changed since independence. Our current system is just as prone to cronyism, favouritism, and corruption as it was under British rule.

    The result of the planned referendum on judicial pay will show the degree to which our British judiciary are out of touch with ordinary people. The judges currently are putting one interpretation on our constitution. If, as I suspect will happen, the ordinary people overwhelmingly vote to amend Article 35.5 then all our 147 judges must resign.

    The proposed referendum is very much consistent with the values contained in the 1916 Proclamation of Independence. It is not at all surprising that supporters of our British judiciary will seek to do everything possible to prevent the ordinary people passing judgment on the judiciary. That approach is consistent with the support for British rule that the Law Society, the Bar Council, and the judiciary gave to Westminister rule prior to 1922, when we got some degree of independence, even though the former administrators of British rule maintained contol of the justice system, and prospered financialy in the Free State and subsequently the Republic.

    "We are out for Ireland for the Irish. But who are the Irish? Not the rack-renting, slum owning landlord; not the sweating, profit-grinding capitalist; not the sleek and oily lawyer; not the prostitute pressman - the hired liars of the enemy . . . but the Irish working class . . . The cause of labour is the cause of Ireland. The cause of Ireland is the cause of labour. They cannot be dissevered . . . Therefore, on Sunday, April 16th, the Green Flag of Ireland will be solemnly hoisted over Liberty Hall." James Connolly, Commander of the Citizen Army, writing in the Workers' Republic to alert members of the imminent Rising, April 8, 1916.
    Last edited by ppcoyle; 4th July 2011 at 05:31 PM.

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    There is very evidence of the referenda in the post or press. Are the 20 odd
    judges worth the expenditure and should we really be holding referenda to
    target individuals. And as for reversing Abbeylara, Haughey and
    Callely; is this power grab by the Oireachtas really the most important thIng we should be changing our constitution at this time?

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    Quote Originally Posted by Con Gallagher View Post
    There is very evidence of the referenda in the post or press. Are the 20 odd
    judges worth the expenditure and should we really be holding referenda to
    target individuals. And as for reversing Abbeylara, Haughey and
    Callely; is this power grab by the Oireachtas really the most important thIng we should be changing our constitution at this time?
    Hardly.

    To give just one example; it's now 28 years since the first abortion referendum, and nineteen years since the X Case. In the X Case, the politicians were savaged by all the judges over their inexcusable failure to do their damn job and legislate on it.

    19 years later, they still haven't done so.

    If the politicians don't have the courage to act independently of political fears in doing their own jobs, why trust them when they're grabbing the role of deciding what's fair procedure under law from the judiciary?

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    Let's have a new constitution instead of adding to the current, broken one.
    Repeal the 27th.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Con Gallagher View Post
    There is very evidence of the referenda in the post or press. Are the 20 odd
    judges worth the expenditure and should we really be holding referenda to
    target individuals. And as for reversing Abbeylara, Haughey and
    Callely; is this power grab by the Oireachtas really the most important thIng we should be changing our constitution at this time?
    I was originally a bit cynical about the Judges referendum and it won't save a huge amount of money. However this whole issue of pay cuts for Judges and Fianna Fail's whole approach to the issue when they were in government (basically attacking judges for not volunteering to take a cut and making a scape goat out of them), has undermined the credibility of the judiciary and their position in Ireland and this referendum should end the whole issue and the Judiciary being respected is crucial in any democratic society.

    It also has the symbolic value of showing people that everyone is taking a hit in these times.
    "Give us the future, we've had enough of YOUR past, Give us back our country, to live in, to grow in and to love..."

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    Quote Originally Posted by Rocky View Post
    I was originally a bit cynical about the Judges referendum and it won't save a huge amount of money. However this whole issue of pay cuts for Judges and Fianna Fail's whole approach to the issue when they were in government (basically attacking judges for not volunteering to take a cut and making a scape goat out of them), has undermined the credibility of the judiciary and their position in Ireland and this referendum should end the whole issue and the Judiciary being respected is crucial in any democratic society.

    It also has the symbolic value of showing people that everyone is taking a hit in these times.
    So "symbolism" is a probative reason for the politicisation of Judicial Remuneration, and the abolition of one of the few lines which separate the judiciary from the executive and the legislature?

    The other referendum is a breathtaking power grab, which will render a crucial strand of the separation of powers null and void, and make potential judges out of ever elected Oireachtas member. I will not endorse such a move.

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    Well we either go two ways on this: either have a regular massive overhaul of the Constitution, say every 15 or 20 years where a whole bunch of referenda - or even an entirely new document - gets put to the people at once; or we go down the Swiss route and have regular referenda all the time which can also be instigated by the people.

    The current situation where we have refernda only when the politicians cannot avoid a problem any longer, or when the politicians decide to have a referendum on something fairly meaningless as a bit of a stunt, only feeds into the whole atmosphere of an out-of-touch political class who see themselves as our "betters".

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    Quote Originally Posted by Greener View Post
    So "symbolism" is a probative reason for the politicisation of Judicial Remuneration, and the abolition of one of the few lines which separate the judiciary from the executive and the legislature?

    The other referendum is a breathtaking power grab, which will render a crucial strand of the separation of powers null and void, and make potential judges out of ever elected Oireachtas member. I will not endorse such a move.
    I think you failed to read my post. I think the referendum will end the politicisation of Judicial Remuneration and in no way will it effect the seperation of powers.

    The other referendum will give the Dail, the powers of investigation that nearly every democratic parlimanent has.
    "Give us the future, we've had enough of YOUR past, Give us back our country, to live in, to grow in and to love..."

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    Quote Originally Posted by Rocky View Post
    I think you failed to read my post. I think the referendum will end the politicisation of Judicial Remuneration and in no way will it effect the seperation of powers. .
    It may end it, but it will require a mass politicisation of the issue to come to that point.

    Quote Originally Posted by Rocky View Post
    The other referendum will give the Dail, the powers of investigation that nearly every democratic parlimanent has.
    Yes, in Countries with independent committee systems, and a non imperfect separation of powers. Our current separation of powers is far less robust than in many other countriesRemember, unlike may other countries which operate under a tripartite separation of powers, we have a fused executive and legislature, which is now attempting to garner a judicial function under Paragraph 3 of the amendment. This is a huge power grab, and I believe it is sneaky of the Government to paint this referendum as a mere adjustment. The 30th Amendment is a large nail in the coffin of our Separation of Powers.

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