Irish neutrality’s last stand
Irish neutrality’s last stand

A conference held at Shannon airport on Saturday heard repeated calls to prevent major corporations from spending over a million Euro on promoting a ‘Yes’ vote in the Lisbon Treaty referendum.

The calls follow confirmation that Intel and Ryanair will push for a ‘Yes’ vote next month. Both corporations are set to boost their profit margins as a result of the planned eastward expansion of the European Union.

The treaty, a form of constitution for the European Union, has major implications for the 26 Counties as an independent, neutral nation.

Of all the major political parties, only Sinn Fein is actively opposing the Treaty which goes before the 26-County electorate for the second time in twop years nect month.

Up to 150 people attended the Shannon event which was organised jointly by the Peace and Neutrality Alliance (PANA) and Irish Anti-War Movement (IAWM), both of which are backing a No vote in the referendum.

Speaking at the conference, Socialist Party MEP Joe Higgins said: “There is a monumental hypocrisy here in the sense that the media and the pro-Lisbon establishment have not raised a single question about the fact that Ryanair and Intel are spending up to a million euro between them on their Yes campaigns.

“If they were private companies on the ‘No’ side, there would be a massive outcry and demands for enquiries.

“The fact that both companies, which are anti-trade union, would be supporting Lisbon is indeed a comment on what Lisbon means, that it endorses the corporate agenda and not the agenda in the interest of working people.”

Former MEP and chairwoman of the People’s Movement Patricia McKenna said: “The idea that corporate business can push for changes to the Irish constitution that may benefit them is seriously wrong and should be addressed immediately.”

Ms McKenna has called on her former party leader Minister John Gormley to take action. “He should be taking action now that this has been highlighted publicly. He should be acting on the fact that the corporate sector can fund, without any limitations or restrictions, a push for changes to the Irish Constitution.”

Vice-chairwoman of Sinn Fein Mary Lou McDonald said successive Dublin administrations had allowed the state’s neutral position to be undermined.

“Each time that Sinn Fein has sought to have a referendum, to write in to the Constitution the definition of neutrality, it has been knocked back by the big parties who will say they support and promote the position of neutrality when in fact they don’t,” she said.

British Labour MP Jeremy Corbyn said he believed Ireland would lose its neutrality if it signs up to the Lisbon Treaty.

“Irish neutrality is a precious thing. It is a very precious advance in Irish history and the Lisbon Treaty will end that neutrality, if Ireland signs up to the treaty, because it requires Ireland to support common European security, common European foreign policy and the principals behind Nato.”

Speaking at the Sinn Fein Ard Comhairle meeting in Dublin on Saturday morning party president Gerry Adams said that Ireland’s interests were best served by voting ‘No’ on October 2nd.

Mr Adams said: “Sinn Fein believes that Irelands place is at the heart of Europe. Our approach to the EU is to support those proposals that are in Ireland’s interests and to oppose and campaign to change those that are not.

“Our European agenda is positive and progressive. We are active participants in a European wide movement of parties and people whose aim is to create a more democratic and people centered European Union that promotes workers rights and public services, supports rural communities and plays a constructive role on the International stage consistent with this state’s neutral status.

“In June last year the people rejected the Lisbon Treaty. They did so because they believed that is was a bad Treaty and because they wanted for a better deal for Ireland and Europe.

“The result presented the Irish government with a strong mandate to negotiate a better Treaty.

“At the time we presented Brian Cowen with very detailed proposals as to how we felt the electorate’s concerns could be dealt with.

“What did the government do? Just like their mismanagement of the economy, they prevaricated, sat on their hands and did nothing.

“As a result they have not secured a single change to the text of the Lisbon Treaty. On October 2nd we will be voting on exactly the same treaty as we did last year.

“The Governments claims of having addressed the concerns of the electorate are entirely false.

“We will still lose our Commissioner, only now in 2014 instead of 2009. Our neutrality will still be undermined. Workers rights and public services will still come under attack. And tax harmonisation will still be made easier.

“There are four weeks left in the campaign. For our part the fact that exactly the same Treaty is being placed before the people means that we should give the same answer.

“A better deal is still possible, but only if we reject the Lisbon Treaty on October 2.”

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