Belfast Telegraph

Investigative powers plan defeated

Government plans to give politicians radically beefed up powers of investigation have been defeated, dealing a huge blow to the coalition.

While a referendum to cut judges' pay was unanimously supported, a second vote on whether to allow the Oireachtas hold major inquiries into matters of public importance was rejected.

It had been opposed by eight former attorneys general.

Alan Shatter, the Justice Minister who championed the defeated reform, denied he had been arrogant in dismissing the advice of the leading lawyers. "When something goes wrong no-one is ever criticised, everything comes down to systemic failure," he said.

The public voted the planned reform down 53% against.

There were also many reports nationwide of voter confusion on polling day on Thursday and a lack of clarity over the potential impact.

Government TDs also conceded that the focus on the presidential campaign over the last month affected communication and debate on the plans.

The referendum on judges pay was passed by more than one million votes, 79% in favour.

The Government will now be given the power to cut judges' salaries proportionately if and when public servants' pay is reduced in the public interest. They will also be subject to the public pensions levy. The second ballot on the Oireachtas inquiries narrowly failed - 928,175 votes against and 812,008 in favour.

In a statement, the Government said it will reflect carefully on the defeated referendum. "It is disappointing that the 30th amendment has been narrowly defeated, but the Constitution is something that belongs to the people and we acknowledge and accept the people's democratic decision," the Government said.

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