The European Commission is spending 1.8 million Euro on a blatant propoganda campaign in a bid to win a second referendum on the Lisbon Treaty.
Blogging, viral social networking, cinema advertising and advertising in women’s and youth magazines are key parts of a 12 month EU-Ireland information plan, which specifically targets segments of the public that voted in large numbers against the Lisbon Treaty in the first referendum.
A call for tender offers millions of Euros to interested public relations agencies to run the campaign -- but does not mention the second Lisbon referendum, focusing instead on the “need to provide public information”.
Sinn Féin MEP Mary Lou McDonald yesterday condemned the EU’s “hard sell”.
“This new strategy does not amount to dialogue but rather propaganda to influence an expected referendum later this year,” said Ms McDonald, who was one of the leaders of the ‘No’ campaign in the first referendum.
Research conducted by the commission in Ireland a few days after the first Lisbon referendum last June showed young people between the ages of 15 and 29 voted against the treaty by a factor of two to one. A majority of women also voted against the treaty while a majority of men voted in favour.
Separate research compiled for the Dublin government confirmed these findings while also noting that the biggest ‘No’ vote came from the lower-income group where 65 per cent voted against the treaty.
The commission yesterday denied that its Irish communications strategy was part of a campaign to get the Lisbon Treaty passed in a second referendum. Lawyers for the commission said its plans did not breach rules on public spending during a referendum campaign.
The tender document says the maximum amount to be spent on organising listening events such as seminars is 500,000 Euro; on internet social networking, 500,000 Euro; and on cinema advertising, 800,000 Euro.
It also specifies that the contractor must attend regularly weekly meetings with the commission to report on actions taken under the contract and present reports on web strategy.
While the re-run of the Lisbon treaty is set for October of this year, the planned media campaign could also affect the European elections in June.
Sinn Féin is the only party in the Dublin parliament opposed the Lisbon treaty to be contesting the EU elections. Libertas, a new pan-European party founded by Irish anti-Lisbon campaigner Declan Ganley, is also expected to contest the EU elections across Europe for the first time this summer.
It was announced this week by the Dublin government that the European and local elections will be held on Friday June 5th. Over three million people will be entitled to vote, according to the new register of electors, which will apply at the elections and comes into force on February 15th.
There are four European election constituencies and 258 local election constituencies. The number of European Parliament seats in Ireland will be reduced from 13 at present to 12 in the new parliament. Dublin has lost one of its four seats and the country is now divided into four three-seat constituencies.
People who are eligible to vote, but who are not yet registered, are reminded to do so at the earliest opportunity by applying for entry to the register of electors.
Every person aged 18 years or over is entitled vote in the local elections in the electoral area where they ordinarily reside, whether or not they are Irish citizens.
When it comes to the European elections all EU citizens living in this country, as well as Irish citizens, are entitled to vote as long as they are included in the register of electors.
People can check whether they are registered on the website checktheregister.ie; application forms can be downloaded from the site.
Application should be made to the county council or city council for the area where the applicant is resident so as to be received by the council not later than Monday May 18th.
The Dublin South byelection, caused by the death of former Fianna Fail minister Seamus Brennan, and the Dublin Central byelection, resulting from the death of Independent TD Tony Gregory, will also be held on June 5th.
Poll hours for the elections will be from 7am until 10pm in order to maximise the turnout.