SIPTU and the NUJ have jointly called on the Government to establish a Referendum Commission coinciding with publication of the proposed legislation on same sex marriage rather than waiting until the date has been set for the referendum. At a round table discussion in Liberty Hall, Dublin, today (Wednesday, 26th February), marking the launch of the SIPTU LGBTQ network, NUJ Irish Secretary Séamus Dooley, said: “The media and the public would benefit from earlier establishment of a Referendum Commission. NUJ and SIPTU members working in the media would benefit from the guidance and direction provided by the Referendum Commission. “The Commission does not act as an advocate for either side in a referendum campaign but provides factual information. In a referendum where facts may be contested the Referendum Commission plays a crucial role.”   He added: “The shape of the public discourse will be important in the referendum campaign.  I believe that Government should give priority to publishing the legislation and, in accordance with the provisions of the Referendum Act 1998, establish immediately following publication of the Act the Referendum Commission.“The tradition has been to establish the Commission once the Act has been passed and a date set.  Learning the lessons of past referendum campaigns the Government should establish the Commission at an earlier stage and I believe this would go a long way towards ensuring a more informed public debate and perhaps encourage a higher turnout.”SIPTU LGBTQ network activist, Rachel Mathews McKay, said: “The Referendum Commission will play an important role in clarifying the factual position regarding the issue to be put to the electorate. I believe the media and the public would find the establishment of a Commission at an earlier stage extremely helpful.”She added: “The Commission will also act as a clearing house for myths and help clarify issues that may arise during the campaign.”The NGO, Marriage Equality, which attended the round table discussion in Liberty Hall, stated that it also endorsed the call for the early establishment of the Referendum Commission.