Read the Daily Rant: an outsider's view on the Irish referendum
There must be a real opinion building process of the citizens before a referendum. Even if the government is supporting one particular side they have to organise a fair referendum, which is best acheived through the establishment a truely independent and neutral referendum commission.
Citizens must be able to access all viewpoints on the topic. They have to know all the advantages and disadvantages of the subject before they decide. Therefore each side of the campaign has an obligation to inform the people about their specific position. In order for each side to carry out their obligation there must be an open debate detailing the pros and cons. This debate must not be suppressed via the blackmailing the people nor by demonising one of the two sides.
In the end the vote must be open in its result (which should be self-understood) and both parties must accept the outcome.
There should be some technical rules
Privately initiated campaigns should be able to campaign as they please, but the sources of money have to be transparent.
For campaigns carried out by the public sector; if taxpayers money is used it has to be provided equally to both sides. Political broadcasts on state-owned television has to be balanced. Both sides should have the an equal amount of air-time.
An independent commission should make sure, that the criteria for fairness are not breached. It should also be in charge of providing basic information, through means such as an official website and information brochure and it has to organise balanced debates in the state-owned media.
In the end it should be the "better argument" that convinces the people and not manipulation, misinformation and/or blackmail.
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