A WEST Limerick woman who is challenging the result of the children’s referendum believes that her decision to vote yes was strongly influenced by Government information which was later found to be unbalanced.
Nancy Kennelly, formerly of Shanagolden and now resident full-time at Abbot Close Nursing Home in Askeaton, is one of two women who have petitioned the High Court for leave to challenge the result of this month’s referendum, which was carried, at the Supreme Court.
Ms Kennelly’s deceased husband was an uncle to late Fianna Fail county councillor Michael Kennelly.
She was described this week by family friend, Cllr Kevin Sheahan, as “a very spirited” and “very courageous” woman.
Ms Kennelly and a second petitioner, Joanna Jordan, of Glenageary Road Upper, Dun Laoghaire, have began a legal bid at the High Court seeking leave to challenge the referendum result.
In her affidavit, which was opened before Mr Justice Iarfhlaith O’Neill, Ms Kennelly said that she voted in favour of the referendum by postal vote prior to the Supreme Court’s ruling that “extensive passages” in the Government’s information booklet were not impartial.
Ms Kennelly believes that by voting by post, she relied heavily on the Government information booklet, which appeared to her to be exclusively in favour of a yes vote.
She said that she trusted the Government to provide her with fair and impartial information, and voted accordingly.
She said that she and others were hugely influenced by the Government-sponsored material, and that had she been presented with impartial information, she may well have voted against the Constitutional amendment.
Ms Jordan, meanwhile, stated in her affidavit that while she was campaigning for a no vote, it became apparent to her that voters mistakenly believed that in certain extreme cases children could not be taken into care unless the amendment was passed.
She said that it was her belief that the Government’s information influenced people into voting yes, which prevented a balanced, fair debate on the referendum.
Both women are also seeking to bring a simultaneous challenge to sections of the 1994 Referendum Act, which places the burden of proving that a referendum was “affected materially” by an irregularity on those who would seek a petition, and not the entity that committed the breach.
Mr Justice O’Neill directed that the State be placed on notice of the application by the women for leave to bring a petition, and adjourned the case until tommorrow.