nordic mackerel quota council Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine, Charlie McConalogue, said that protecting Irish fishers at difficult quota negotiations Brexit Processing Capital Support Scheme McConalogue breaking rules

Minister Charlie McConalogue is under pressure after for advocating a Yes vote in the recent referendum through Departmental channels

Minister for Agriculture, Food, and the Marine, Charlie McConalogue, is facing scrutiny for allegedly breaching strict rules by employing public funds to advocate for a Yes vote in referendums that ultimately ended in defeat, reports the Irish Independent.

Breaking away from the McKenna judgment, which deems it unconstitutional for the government to utilise taxpayers’ money to promote a specific side in campaigns, McConalogue issued a press statement from his government department in the final days of the campaign, urging farmers to vote Yes.

“Minister McConalogue advocates ‘Yes’ vote amongst the farming community ahead of referenda,” read the statement disseminated from the Department of Agriculture. Normally, such statements should be released by political parties, specifically the Fianna Fáil press office in this case.

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A Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine spokesperson said, that “The press release should not have been sent from a Department account”.

Ministers were explicitly instructed to adhere to guidelines cautioning against the use of taxpayer funds for referendum campaigning. Legal advice from the Attorney General emphasised that the government is not entitled to spend public money to sway campaigns towards a particular outcome. The advice stressed the need for disseminated information to be equal, fair, impartial, and neutral.

“Ministers… are advised to avoid any use of public resources when advocating support for the referendum proposals,” the advice stated. “This includes the use of government websites. A useful rule of thumb is for behaviour to be similar to that in a general election campaign.”

Despite the guidelines, a press statement endorsing a Yes vote was sent to the media by the minister’s special adviser last Wednesday afternoon. The adviser, appointed for political reasons, admitted fault, stating, “It was my error. I should not have sent it from my work account. The minister was unaware of it. The department would be unaware as well. Nobody else in Ag House was involved.”

The advice from the Attorney General, Rossa Fanning, also extends to special advisers, noting that those working for a referendum campaign during normal hours should take unpaid leave and notify the relevant department’s secretary general.

Historically, a Minister has resigned over the incorrect dissemination of information to the media, raising questions about the potential fallout for McConalogue.

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