Belfast Telegraph

Plan for permanent referendum body

Taoiseach Enda Kenny will set up a permanent Referendum Commission to ensure its members are prepared should the public be required to vote on EU treaty changes.

The commission, which was established in 1998, only convenes before a referendum is held.

But the Taoiseach said operating on a more permanent basis would mean it is better prepared for the vote and to adequately inform the public of the arguments for each side.

"I can't give you an indication now as to whether there will actually be a referendum in respect of the inter-governmental agreement from the European business until the text is finalised and we get the advice of the Attorney General," said Mr Kenny.

"What I'm going to do though is set up the Referendum Commission on a much more permanent basis so that the commission will be able to reflect in readiness as to what is actually going to happen."

European leaders agreed at a eurozone summit earlier this month to enter a fiscal union, meaning stricter debt and budget rules and penalties for the states that break them. All 27 states, with the exception of Britain, agreed on the pact.

Attorney General Maire Whelan is currently examining details of the agreement to determine whether entering it will require a constitutional change. If it does, then a referendum will be called.

"On the last occasion there was some confusion and that's one of the reasons I want to set up the Referendum Commission, to be able to reflect more clearly on these things and the need for a political discussion," said Mr Kenny.

Two referendums were held simultaneously on October 27 - one calling for judicial pay reforms and the other for increased power for the Oireachtas to hold public inquiries. Only the judicial pay reform was passed.

Mr Kenny said holding more than one referendum at a time was something he would have to consider further. He said the public had been confused in October and part of the reason may have been because two were held simultaneously. "I need to reflect on the question on holding multi referendums in one day," added Mr Kenny.

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