Belfast Telegraph

Minister sorry for judge criticism

A Government minister has apologised to a leading judge for what he called "cack-handed" criticism of his role advising the public on last week's failed referendum.

Brendan Howlin, Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform, said he had not intended to slight Judge Bryan McMahon, chairman of the Referendum Commission.

"If he feels in any way that there was a slight then I unreservedly give such an apology," he said.

"It was not my intention to slight them in any way. If that is their view ... I unreservedly apologise for that."

Mr Howlin had claimed the judge caused confusion when he said it is not clear what role courts would have, if any, in settling disputes on investigations.

The commission hit back and said it regretted that the minister had personally attacked the chairman.

The Wexford TD, who had championed the failed proposals to give the Oireachtas beefed-up powers of inquiry, said he had no intention of questioning the role of the Referendum Commission.

"I regret that answers I gave to questions during the count were seen to be critical of the commission," Mr Howlin told RTE Radio.

"I was simply trying, in obviously a cack-handed way, to answer the question of what were the issues that led to a no vote."

The Government's proposals to increase the scale and scope of parliamentary inquiries were defeated after a vote last Thursday.

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