Along with the Presidential Election on 27th October, the Irish people are also being asked to vote in two referendums.

Referendum 1: The Twenty Ninth Amendment of the Constitution (Judges Remuneration) Bill 2011 – This amendment to the Constitution will reduce the remuneration of Judges in line with other public servants.

Background: In 2009 the then Finance Minister, Brian Lenihan, announced that judges would be exempted from pay reductions imposed on other public servants because the Constitution precluded such cuts. These reductions took the form of a pension levy and a reduction in basic salary. Although a voluntary scheme was established allowing judges to make a contribution to the Revenue Commissioners, not all judges availed of the scheme (21 out of 147 judges failed to make any contribution).

Purpose of the Referendum: The Programme for Government contains a specific commitment to hold a referendum to amend the Constitution so that judges’ pay can be adjusted as part of any general public service reduction.

Referendum 2: The Thirtieth Amendment of the Constitution (Houses of the Oireachtas Inquiry) Bill 2011 – This amendment to the Constitution will reverse the effects of the Abbeylara decision and will enable Oireachtas Committees to undertake full investigations.

Background: In the aftermath of the shooting dead by members of the Gardaí of John Carthy in Abbeylara in April 2000, an Oireachtas Sub Committee was formed to investigate the circumstances surrounding his death. A number of Gardaí who were compelled to appear before the committee challenged their constitutional right to the Supreme Court. They did so on the basis that the Oireachtas did not have the power to establish such a committee and that the Committee’s findings may have adverse effects on their constitutionally-protected right to one’s good name. The Supreme Court subsequently found that the Oireachtas did not have the inherent general power to set up an investigative committee. Rather, under the Constitution, it had limited powers to inquire into certain matters with a view to drafting protective legislation.

Purpose of the Referendum: The reversal of this decision by the Supreme Court will ensure that the Oireachtas has an effective system of inquiry which can secure effective and cost-efficient parliamentary scrutiny of issues of significant public importance. This is essential in facilitating more open, transparent and better Government as promised in the Programme for Government. By passing this referendum the Oireachtas would be in a position to conduct an inquiry into the recent banking scandal