the Government will spend €17m on running the referendum
The Government will spend €17m on running the referendum and informing voters about issues on the treaty.
Ministers have been accused of hiding behind a legal technicality to deny spending taxpayers’ cash on pushing the yes campaign in the looming EU referendum.
It also emerged the Government will spend €17m on running the referendum and informing voters about issues on the treaty.
The figures were revealed by Taoiseach Enda Kenny.
The news came as Tánaiste Eamon Gilmore attacked claims that a website launched to raise awareness of the vote breached impartiality rules because it contained links to political speeches by members of the Government.
Despite the May 31 referendum date being known for some time, Mr Gilmore said the impartiality rules did not kick in until the vote legislation formally passes through the Dáil.
The stance provoked outrage among anti-treaty campaigners, who said the Government was using public funds to try and shape the outcome of the vote in contravention of the spirit of a legal judgment known as the McKenna rule.
United Left Alliance TD Richard Boyd Barrett said: "It is clearly an abuse of taxpayers’ money and breaches the whole principle behind the impartiality rule. This is a ‘vote yes’ website giving a one-sided slant, and they are just using a technicality to claim otherwise."
Mr Gilmore, at the launch of stabilitytreaty.ie, insisted the referendum had not yet been officially called. "This is the provision of information and the rules relating to the McKenna judgment kick in once the referendum is ordered by the minister for environment — and at the moment the legislation is still going through the House. What we are providing here is information, this isn’t advocacy."
The website has cost taxpayers €30,000 to develop, with Government employees helping to maintain it.