Sinn Féin spokesperson on Housing Eoin Ó Broin TD has urged President Higgins to send the Electoral Reform Bill back to the Dáil.
The call was made on foot of revelations that the European Commission issued a Detailed Legal Opinion on the Bill highlighting a number of areas where it may not be compatible with EU law.
Teachta Ó Broin said:
“The Electoral Reform Bill is a once in a generation piece of legislation. It is designed to modernise our electoral system, create a much-needed Electoral Commission and ensure the integrity of our electoral processes, particularly in the new digital age.
“Throughout its passage, there was strong cross-party support for developing the best possible piece of legislation. Unfortunately that collegiality was soured at the bill’s final stages when government rammed through substantive amendments without adequate Oireachtas scrutiny.
“Now we have learned that the Minister withheld a Detailed Legal Opinion from the European Commission on those sections of the bill dealing with online advertising during election periods.
“The Commission has outlined its view that this section may be in breach of the eCommerce Directive. It has also come to light that controversial last minute amendments to the Bill are still with the European Commission for consideration.
“As the Bill reached its final stage through the Dáil, Sinn Féin and other opposition parties urged government to withdraw the controversial amendments and bring them back as amending legislation in the Autumn for proper scrutiny and consideration. We argued that failure to do so would undermine public confidence in this crucial legislation.
“The latest revelations regarding the European Commission’s opinion makes the case for returning the Bill to the Dáil even stronger.
“Unfortunately the government ignored the views of opposition, concealed the European Commission’s legal opinion and has now placed President Higgins in an appalling position.
“I believe the right course of action at this point is for the President to return the Bill to the Dáil for further consideration on all of the controversial aspects of the Bill to ensure we get it right.
“The Oireachtas needs to consider the European Commission’s view in full to determine whether there are valid or an over reach into an area where the Commission has no competence.
“We need to hear the Commission’s views on the controversial last minute amendments. We also need to fix the errors identified by opposition in the drafting of some of the text.
“This is yet another example of an incompetent government riding roughshod over the legislative process, disrespecting the Oireachtas and placing the President in an invidious position.
“This is no way to deal with a one in a generation reform of the very rules underpinning our democracy.”