THE BOOT IN
Thinly disguised threats are emanating from both the European bureaucracy and the Dublin government ahead of the Lisbon Treaty referendum on June 12.
The 26-County electorate has been warned by European Commission President Jose Barroso that Ireland will “pay a price” should the referendum not pass.
Meanwhile, closer to home, Green Party Minister Eamon Ryan, has declared that there will be “chaos” should the referendum not pass.
The campaign to pass the Treaty -- effectively a new constitution for the European Union as the EU enlarges towards the east -- has intensified significantly in recent weeks, with posters in every town and village.
Barroso, who has advocated a Europe-wide tax to fund an emerging EU super-power, said there “is no Plan B” if Ireland rejects the treaty.
“If there was a “No”, in Ireland or in another country, it would have a very negative effect for the EU,” he said.
“We will all pay a price for it, Ireland included, if this is not done in a proper way,” he said.
His intervention has raised new questions for the ‘Yes’ campaign, which has drawn heavily on party loyalty to back a lengthy and complex Treaty. Even the Taoiseach Brian Cowen and Ireland’s EU Commissioner Charlie McCreevy have admitted they have not read the controversial document.
Despite pro-Lisbon advocates dismissing the ‘No’ campaign as ‘liars’, ‘nutters’, ‘loo-las’ and ‘ultra nationalists’, an energetic and diverse ‘No’ campaign has gained strength in recent weeks, while the establishment political parties have engaged in bickering over their relatively lacklustre campaign.
On Sunday, Cowen told reporters that he hoped Fine Gael and Labour, the two largest opposition parties, would “crank up their campaigns”. His comments followed the publication of an opinion poll which showed that more of his Fianna Fail supporters intended to vote ‘Yes’ than those who supported Fine Gael and Labour.
Cowen came in for heavy criticism from the Opposition parties for his comments, which the Taoiseach later insisted were meant as “words of encouragement”.
Meanwhile, ‘No’ campaigners have repeatedly warned that the Treaty will diminish Irish sovereignty and neutrality, increase the democratic deficit at the heart of European decision-making, and devolve significant powers into the hands of a remote bureaucracy.
EU Commissioner Charlie McCreevy dismissed concerns that Irish people were voting on a treaty they had not read, saying nobody reads such documents from cover to cover.
“There would only be a few experts in Ireland capable of reading it,” he said, and described the treaty as a “tidying up exercise”. This sharply contradicted the dire warnings from Jose Barroso as well as Ireland’s Minister for Energy, Communication and Natural Resources, Eamon Ryan.
Ryan warned of ‘EU chaos’ if the Treaty is lost and suggested that it “would be very damaging to the interests of this country if we don’t ratify the Treaty.”
Sinn Féin’s Mary Lou McDonald described Ryan’s comments as “hysteria” which was “reckless when so many voters remain undecided. Hysteria is no substitute for reasoned debate.
“Threats of chaos are nonsense as is Minister Ryan’s assertion that there is no plan B in the event that the Lisbon Treaty is rejected by the Irish people. Of course there is a plan B, there is always a plan B in political life. By rejecting this treaty we can give the Irish government a strong mandate to negotiate a better deal. Ireland and Europe deserves better,” she added.
eirigi spokesperson Daithi Mac An Mhaistir also slammed the Minister’s comments.
“The fact of the matter is that the people of the Netherlands and France have already rejected the EU Constitution.
“As punishment for daring to defy the European political establishment they have been denied a vote this time.
“The people of the 26 counties are being asked to decide the future on behalf of 400 million people across Europe.
“The threats of the ‘Yes’ side will be seen for what they are; a flailing, desperate attempt to bully people into delivering the establishments view of the ‘right’ vote.”
FARMERS LOSE OUT
Meanwhile, there is a growing controversy over the Lisbon Treaty’s removal of Ireland’s ability to veto the kind of international trade agreement currently being negotiated by Peter Mandelson at the WTO (World Trade Organisation).
Irish farmers are set to lose out significantly through the dual action of the WTO trade agreement and the Lisbon Treaty, which would prevent Irish farmers having a say on the deal. The farming vote was a significant factor in the defeat of the first referendum on the Nice Treaty and farming opinion is again turning against this new treaty.
While European Commission bureaucrats have advanced legalistic and obscure arguments to suggest Ireland could still veto Mandelson’s trade agreement, Sinn Féin stood over their warning that the Ireland’s rights would be compromised.
“The most telling aspect of the Commission statement is the highly conditional nature of their assertions,” said McDonald.
“Phrases such as ‘not necessarily’, ‘are often’, ‘will often’ and ‘at least in part’ demonstrate that the Commission cannot or will not provide a definitive answer to the question of the veto.”
Also this week, northern SDLP leader Mark Durkan joined the 26-County Labour Party in calling for a Yes vote in the Lisbon treaty referendum, criticising Sinn Féin as “headbangers”.
“They are happy to ride on the back of all sorts of nonsense coming from various sore heads and headbangers about a whole variety of issues,” he said, without specifying further.
Sinn Féin’s John O’Dowd, however, said that “the SDLP and Labour must explain their support for Lisbon Treaty”.
“The Lisbon referendum in the 26 counties next month not only disenfranchises voters in the north but is also a bad deal for Ireland,” he said.
“The Labour Party and the SDLP have cynically tried to play on people’s fears in an effort to avoid real debate on the contents of the treaty.”