The 26-County Minister for Foreign Affairs Micheal Martin has launched an extraordinary attack against the ‘Coir’ campaign on the Lisbon Treaty referendum.
The group’s posters ahead of the first Lisbon referendum in June 2008 were seen as the best of the campaign. Its release of a second wave for the repeat referendum prompted an agitated response by the Dublin government.
In particular, one poster’s claim that the state’s hard-won independence is being compromised by the European federalisation project drew unusual rhetoric from Mr Martin.
“It is the duty of every person who respects the great generation which sacrificed so much for us to come out and work against these people and what they stand for,” Mr Martin said.
He accused Coir of being a “front” for anti-abortion group Youth Defence and that they shared the same offices.
Another poster, which pointed to the risk to Irish workers of new European legislation on minimum wage levels was described as “a lie and an untruth” by Mr Martin.
“Their campaign is all about lies and scaremongering,” he declared.
Comments made by Irish EU commissioner Charlie McCreevy earlier this year that 95 per cent of Europeans would vote ‘No’ if the treaty was put to them for a vote is reproduced in another poster.
As a result of the Irish constitution, the people of the 26 Counties are uniquely allowed a vote on the treaty, a controversial constitution for an enlarged European bureaucracy.
Coir spokesman Richard Greene added that the Minister’s comments “smacked of desperation, since he is clearly aware that Coir’s canvassers are already having a significant effect right across the country.”
He said Mr Martin was unable to point to any evidence to his allegations.
“The Minister can bluster as much as he likes, but the fact remains that the Lisbon Treaty does nothing for Ireland and Coir are engaged in a nationwide campaign to ensure that voters understand the treaty and the reasons to vote No,” said Mr Greene.
The Coir spokesman said that Mr Martin had previously “tried and failed” to ‘smear’ Coir by alleging they were a front for the highly successful pro-life organization, Youth Defence.
“When will the Minister realize that voters have no problem with either Coir’s pro-life stance or the fact that, while Coir is an independent organization, we are lucky enough to have the support and energy of some Youth Defence members,” asked Mr Greene.
“Fianna Fail spent their time accusing Coir of lying about Lisbon and abortion last year. Yet their own research showed that most people believed Coir on the issue,” said Mr Greene.
He added that Fianna Fail and the other political parties had thoroughly disgraced politics, and cost the taxpayer tens of millions of euro in tribunals investigating the murky and dishonest nature of Irish political life.
“They have made us a laughing stock before the world which now believes Irish politics to be run by gombeen men and crooks,” said Mr Greene.
“And they have brought this country to economic ruin with disastrous effects for ordinary Irish families.”
Mr Greene said that the Minister’s real problem was that Coir volunteers were busy canvassing and postering with the same excellent material produced last year and were having a significant effect on voting intentions.
“We’re seeing an increase of 30% over last year in volunteers coming forward to help with campaign; a million leaflets are going out and 11,000 posters are being erected,” said the Coir spokesman. “Anyone is welcome to join Coir and they are doing so in increasing numbers. In the meantime, Fianna Fail are terrified of going near the doors.”
NO MORE LISBON
Meanwhile, other groups stepped up their campaigns.
Chair of the People’s Movement, former MEP Patricia McKenna, attacked the Referendum Commission and claimed its explanatory booklet was misleading and selective. “While the guide, which has been distributed at taxpayers’ expense to every house in the State, does not openly advocate a Yes vote, it has nevertheless been cleverly designed to do exactly that,” she said.
Ms McKenna said the document appeared to fly in the face of the principles established by the Supreme Court that taxpayers’ money should not be used to influence the outcome of a referendum.
eirigi launched the first wave of the party’s No to Lisbon 2 campaign last Monday outside the gates of Leinster House and the EU offices in Dublin city centre.
eirigi has produced a poster entitled ‘Never Mind the B****cks - It is the Same Treaty’. The poster campaign is themed on a Sex Pistols album cover.
Spokesperson Daithi Mac an Mhaistir said that his party produced the poster to remind people that “despite all the hype and spin surrounding the so-called Lisbon Treaty guarantees, what we are actually being asked to vote on in October is exactly the same treaty as the one that was rejected in June 2008.
“Not a single word, comma or full stop has been changed in the text of the Lisbon Treaty. The Twenty-Six County establishment is blatantly and arrogantly ignoring the democratic wishes of the people by re-running the Lisbon referendum.”
Sinn Fein TD Martin Ferris said “the Lisbon Treaty was a bad deal for rural Ireland in 2008 and it remains a bad deal today”.
“If the Lisbon Treaty is passed the EU Commission will have the power to initiate and conclude international trade agreements and in all but the most exceptional circumstances the Irish government will no longer have a veto at the European Council,” he said.
“This would allow the European Commission, with the support of the Irish government, to do with the farming industry exactly what they have done with the fishing industry.
“For this reason I am calling on all Irish farmers to vote No to the Lisbon Treaty.”