Sinn Féin - On Your Side

Send Government back to secure better deal for Ireland

22 April, 2008


Speaking in the Dáil today Sinn Féin Group leader Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin TD called on the electorate to engage in the debate on the Lisbon Treaty. He urged voters to vote no in order to send the government back to secure a better deal for Ireland.

Deputy Ó Caoláin said, "Government speaker after Government speaker, as well as others on the 'Yes' side, have repeatedly tried to promote the scare story that a rejection of Lisbon will see us turned into the dunces of the EU class who will be put standing in the corner or, worse still, expelled altogether. Minister Ahern and Minister of State Roche have specialised in this line.

"France and the Netherlands rejected the EU Constitution in 2005. They didn't lose influence or standing in the EU and nor would this State if we did likewise. The purpose of a referendum is for the citizens of a member state to freely and democratically decide on the matter at hand. As democrats we must all, including our EU partners, respect the outcome of the referendum. Attempts to bully or bribe us into voting a particular way are undemocratic.

"The attempts by the political elite in Ireland and in Brussels to deceive the people have gone well beyond rhetoric here in the Dáil and I want to detail some of it.

"In February 2008 Commissioner Kuneva's office said that Commission and Council were getting negative feedback on a Heath Directive and President Barroso instructed the Commission not to take unpopular initiatives during the Lisbon Treaty discussions. Then Androula Vassiliou, the Health Commissioner, told MEPs on April 1st that the Commission will publish its long-delayed proposal for a cross-border healthcare directive in June. And we find - surprise, surprise - that the publication date will be June 25th, after the Irish referendum.

"In his contribution Deputy Ruairi Quinn said we have to support the Treaty, it is not perfect but "it is the only Europe around". That is false. We have a choice. We can say 'No' to the drive towards the type of Europe envisaged by Jose Barroso, President of the EU Commission who said last July: 'Sometimes I like to compare the EU as a creation to the organisation of Empire. We have the dimensions of Empire'.

"Sinn Féin TDs have set out the arguments against the Lisbon Treaty. We set out the direct implications for Ireland if the Lisbon Treaty is passed in terms of the loss of power, neutrality, public services, workers' rights, rural Ireland and the economy. We have also set out in clear terms what the Irish Government should do in negotiations for a new Treaty. So I would like to conclude by calling on the electorate to participate in the debate, to come out and vote 'NO' and send the government back to secure a better deal for Ireland." ENDS

Note to editor: Full text of Deputy Ó Caoláin's speech follows.

Full text of Deputy Ó Caoláin's speech follows.

Caoimhghín Ó Caolain TD

It is right that the Dáil is spending considerable time debating this Bill which seeks to amend the Constitution to give effect to the Lisbon Treaty. No doubt the Government and their allies in this House will cite the succession of TDs who have stood up to advocate a 'Yes' vote but the voices and the arguments of those of us who take the opposite view are no less important. Successive referenda have shown that people have been ill-served by Fianna Fáil, Fine Gael and Labour who have unquestioningly and uncritically supported every proposed development of the EU that has been put to referendum in this State. Yet consistently over one third of the electorate has opposed the further loss of sovereignty and the undermining of neutrality. That section of opinion grew to defeat the first Nice referendum in 2001.

Now the number of voters who find themselves unrepresented or not properly represented in this House has increased. Very many of those who voted for the Green Party on the basis that they would oppose further erosion of Irish sovereignty and neutrality find that their party has now swung around to support the Lisbon Treaty, not on its merits but so that they can remain in Government with Fianna Fáil and the PDs.

Government speakers have repeatedly cited the positions we have taken in previous referenda and say that we are not to be trusted when we state that we are for continued EU membership, that co-operation with our EU partners is valuable and must continue and that we have supported EU measures that have benefited this country. But these are our positions. We are positive about Europe. We are for critical engagement with the EU. Too many in this House are for unquestioning loyalty to EU institutions.

It is interesting to hear them refer to previous referenda. There was no referendum between the referendum on EU accession in 1972 and the referendum on the Singe European Act in 1987. And if successive Governments involving Fianna Fáil, Fine Gael and Labour had had their way there would have been no referenda at all after accession. The people were only given their right to decide on these issues after a private citizen, the late Ray Crotty, took court action on constitutional grounds. It is interesting to consider how far the political elite in this State would have taken us if they had not been held to account in this way. For one thing, I very much doubt that we would have remained outside of NATO.

In his speech introducing this Bill the Minister for Foreign Affairs Deputy Dermot Ahern said: "There is currently no proposal for a common EU defence. In any case, a change in Ireland's position can only come about if the Irish people decide so in a referendum." Again we have the touching reference to a referendum. The Minister's party, Fianna Fáil in its 1997 election manifesto opposed membership of NATO's so-called Partnership for Peace. Bertie Ahern said that to join it without a referendum would be a "serious breach of faith and fundamentally undemocratic". In Government he joined it and there was no referendum.

This State has come to play an increasingly significant role in both NATO and EU military structures. Irish troops serve at NATO HQ in Brussels under the so-called 'Partnership for Peace'. Irish troops have served in NATO-led missions, including in Afghanistan. There is a full-time EU Military Staff headquartered in Brussels which is responsible for 'command and control' of EU military capabilities - this reports to an EU Military Committee, which in turn reports to the EU Political and Security Committee and from thence upwards to the EU Council of Ministers. Irish army officers serve with the EUMS, and Ireland is represented at all other levels of this network.

This Lisbon Treaty will deepen involvement with NATO, ensuring that all such activities are compatible with NATO, while increasing Irish taxpayers' contributions to Irish and EU military capabilities.

Government speaker after Government speaker, as well as others on the 'Yes' side, have repeatedly tried to promote the scare story that a rejection of Lisbon will see us turned into the dunces of the EU class who will be put standing in the corner or, worse still, expelled altogether. Minister Ahern and Minister of State Roche have specialised in this line. Deputy Martin Mansergh tried to recruit every Irish patriot from Eoghan Rua Ó Néill to Thomas Davis and the men and women of 1916 to the 'Yes' campaign. All to show that by voting 'No' we would be turning our backs on Europe and the world. It is patent and patronising nonsense and it convinces no-one.

France and the Netherlands rejected the EU Constitution in 2005. They didn't lose influence or standing in the EU and nor would this State if we did likewise. The purpose of a referendum is for the citizens of a member state to freely and democratically decide how on the matter at hand. As democrats we must all, including our EU partners, respect the outcome of the referendum. Attempts to bully or bribe us into voting a particular way are undemocratic. There is no doubt that, if rejected, this Treaty will reopen the debate about the future of Europe.

The attempts by the political elite in Ireland and in Brussels to deceive the people have gone well beyond rhetoric here in the Dáil and I want to detail some of it.

In October 2007 the European Parliament Committee on Economic and Monetary Affairs was due to produce a report on a 'Common Consolidated Corporate Tax Base (CCCTB)'. There were many in the Parliament who wanted the Commission to bring forward its proposal. At the coordinators meeting Eoin Ryan MEP of Fianna Fail intervened to request that it be postponed until after the referendum here in Ireland. Representatives of the political blocs to which Labour and Fine Gael and Marin Harkin are affiliated all agreed to postpone it. Again, this report will not now be discussed until after the Irish referendum.

In December 2007 Commission President Barroso removed tax harmonisation from the Strategic Objectives of the Commission for 2008. It was widely reported in both the Irish and European media that Irish commissioner Charlie McCreevy campaigned for this change as he believed that the plans for the tax base would become an issue in the debate on the Treaty referendum. Following this decision the Commissioner with responsibility for tax, Laszlo Kovacs, told MEPs that same month that a legislative proposal for a common tax base would still be published, but not until after the 2008 summer break, i.e. after the Irish referendum.

In February 2008 Commissioner Kuneva's office said that Commission and Council were getting negative feedback on a Heath Directive and President Barroso instructed the Commission not to take unpopular initiatives during the Lisbon Treaty discussions. Then Androula Vassiliou, the Health Commissioner, told MEPs on April 1st that the Commission will publish its long-delayed proposal for a cross-border healthcare directive in June. And we find - surprise, surpise - that the publication date will be June 25th, after the Irish referendum.

On Monday 14th April the Daily Mail outlined a briefing by Dan Mulhall, a senior official in the Department of Foreign Affairs, stating that the referendum is being held in June rather than October due to likely 'unhelpful developments' during the forthcoming French Presidency, particularly with regard to defence. Mr. Mulhall also acknowledges Margart Wallstrom's reassurances that the Commission was willing to "tone down or delay messages that might be unhelpful" to the Irish referendum.

Also revealed last week was a letter from the powerful EU Constitutional Committee Chairperson Jo Leinen stating that he was writing to Chairpersons of EU committees advising them that "any documents concerning implementation of the Treaty of Lisbon which addresses politically sensitive matters be examined only when it becomes sufficiently clear that the Treaty will enter into force" i.e. after the Irish referendum.

On Thursday last, April 17th the EU Observer reported that a public debate on EU budgetary reform launched last September has been given two additional months, with diplomats suggesting that the additional time comes as a result of the 'EU tiptoeing around Ireland' as the controversial debate includes possible cuts in farm subsidies.

It was reported on Sunday last that President Barroso has confirmed that the Commission will not now be pursuing a case against Ireland for alleged breach of EU rules on equal opportunity due to religious schools refusing to employ teachers who don't adhere to the religious ethos of the school. It is believed that this climbdown reflects the intense pressure on the EU to avoid antagonising the Irish in advance of the referendum.

Deception is the name of the game for the 'Yes' camp but they should remember the old saying: "What a tangled web we weave when first we practice to deceive."

In his contribution Deputy Ruairi Quinn said we have to support the Treaty, it is not perfect but "it is the only Europe around". That is false. We have a choice. We can say 'No' to the drive towards the type of Europe envisaged by Jose Barroso, President of the EU Commission who said last July:

"Sometimes I like to compare the EU as a creation to the organisation of Empire. We have the dimensions of Empire"

Sinn Féin TDs have set out the arguments against the Lisbon Treaty. We set out the direct implications for Ireland if the Lisbon Treaty is passed in terms of the loss of power, neutrality, public services, workers' rights, rural Ireland and the economy. We have also set out in clear terms what the Irish Government should do in negotiations for a new Treaty. So I would like to conclude by calling on the electorate to participate in the debate, to come out and vote 'NO' and send the government back to secure a better deal for Ireland.

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