Sinn Féin - On Your Side

de Brún speaks at Lisbon Treaty debate in Belfast

10 June, 2008


Sinn Féin MEP Bairbre de Brún last night spoke at a debate on the Lisbon Treaty in Belfast.

The debate organised by the Peace and Neutrality Alliance gave people in the six counties an opportunity to voice their concerns over the Lisbon treaty and express their anger at the lack of voting rights for Irish citizens in this part of Ireland.

Ms de Brún said,

"In our globalised world co-operation and solidarity across Europe and internationally are essential to meet the challenges of today and the future. As members of the European Union we have a huge task in building a democratic Europe capable of meeting those challenges, capable of meeting the needs and aspirations of our people.

"It is deeply regrettable that we in the north of Ireland do not have the right to say whether we support or reject the Lisbon Treaty. Like so many other parts of the EU, we have been denied a voice By the British government in case it doesn't get the answer it wants. We have also been denied the right to vote in the Irish referendum.

"In the south the Lisbon Treaty referendum is not a debate as to whether or not we are Europeans. It is not about whether or not Ireland should play its role in the EU. Those matters are given. We are Europeans. Our place in the EU is secure irrespective of the democratic outcome of our referendum.

"The debate is about whether or not the Lisbon Treaty advances the EU in a positive direction. Our concerns about the Lisbon Treaty do not come from a position of 'Euroscepticism' as some would suggest. We are hugely engaged in EU politics on a daily basis. We oppose the treaty because it is a bad deal for Ireland for Europe and for the wider world.

"Is páirtí uile-Éireann Sinn Féin atá amuigh ag stocaireacht timpeall na tíre le tamall anuas. Creideann Sinn Féin gur féidir le muintir na hÉireann margadh níos fearr a fháil má vótáltar 'Níl' Déardaoin. Tabharfaidh seo sainordú láidir do rialtas na hÉireann comhráití nua a lorg lenár bpáirtnéirí Eorpacha.

"In many ways we are at a fork in the road of the European project. The Lisbon Treaty contains substantial institutional and procedural changes to the structure and operation of the European Union. It continues the trend of centralising power, it reasserts the primacy of the market above all else, it advances the militarisation agenda.

"The democratic deficit at the heart of the EU is long acknowledged, and widely acknowledged, even by the very leaders that signed the Lisbon Treaty last December. Yet the Lisbon Treaty fails the test of democratic reform.

"The Treaty marks another step in the centralisation of political power in the EU. In over 60 areas vetoes are lost continuing the trend away from consensus decision making to majority voting - a change that most disadvantages small member states. This treaty would see Ireland's voting strength at Council of Ministers halved. Not alone that but the European Council can decide to move yet more areas of decision from consensus to majority vote without reference to the people (Article 48)

"People are concerned about the combination of weaker voting strength at the Council of Ministers and the loss of an automatic right to appoint a commissioner. At a time when the EU is taking on a more extensive and ambitious political agenda, at a time when important issues like taxation are clearly in the Commission sights, our exclusion for such long periods from that Commission table is a serious worry.

"Taken together these changes undermine Irish influence and are bad for democracy in the EU. Taken together these changes expose the argument that Lisbon secures Ireland's place at the heart of Europe.

"Monitoring powers (on matters of subsidiarity and proportionality) extended to domestic parliaments, or by the Citizens initiative do not balance the democratic equation in the context of what is lost. At a time of significant change, Ireland, a small member state, should not place ourselves in a weakened position in the EU institutions.

"Ar ndóigh ó thaobh an tslat tomhais a úsáideann Sinn Féin chun Chonradh Liospóin a mheas, baineann seo le tionchar an chonartha ar Éireann, ar an Aontas Eorpach agus ar an domhan mhór. Agus anailís agus díospóireacht inmheánach déanta go grinn, measann Sinn Fein gur droch-mhargadh d'Éirinn, do AE agus don domhan i mbéal forbartha atá ann.

"The last decade has seen a significant militarisation of the EU. The use of Irish taxpayers money, north and south, to financially back the European Defence Agency and through participation in EU Battle Groups..

"Article 28 of the Lisbon Treaty requires that states progressively increase spending on their military capabilities. Unlike the Danes, the Irish government did not seek or secure an opt-out from the European Defence Agency. It is disappointing that the Green Party who were so vocal on these issues in the past are so quiet now.

"The Triple Lock, whereby military interventions abroad require UN authorisation and the consent of the government and Leinster House is cited as the guarantor of our military neutrality. This is a deliberately misleading argument. The triple lock does not prevent our involvement in an EU common foreign and security policy, does not prevent the creation of an EU High Representative who can speak on behalf of all EU member states or the establishment of an EU diplomatic corps.

"The Lisbon treaty ties us to a single EU foreign security and defence policy. It commits us to adherence to such a foreign policy. What this means in real terms is that the state, in the person of the Minister for Foreign Affairs, would be curtailed in adopting independent foreign policy positions.

"I am sure we all know how vulnerable health services are to privatisation. We saw in Irish Ferries a stark example of the undermining of workers basic rights. We need domestic and European provisions that solve these problems. Such solutions are not contained in the Lisbon Treaty.

"The Treaty allows that health and education could be opened to competitive markets (Article 188) a member state may no longer veto international trade deals in these sectors unless it can prove that such a deal would 'risk seriously' the organisation or 'prejudice' the delivery of the service. In addition under Lisbon public services generally (services of general economic interest) would be subjected to 'new economic and financial conditions' (Article 16(b)). These provisions combine to threaten the provision of basic public services to which I believe citizens are entitled as of right.

"The Lisbon Treaty reasserts that the market is king. We all understand the need for enterprise, the need to create wealth but we equally understand that basic social services must be provided and protected. We also know that our rights, not just as consumers but also as workers must be explicitly underwritten.

"Assertions that the charter of fundamental rights attached to the treaty addresses these issues is overblown and makes claims for the charter and its legal effect which do not stand up. In fact the ETUC (the European Trade Union Congress) has called for a social progress clause to be attached to the EU treaties to guard against the social dumping evidenced in the Valxholm case and others.

"The Irish government and others make much of a six word reference to climate change in the treaty. Despite the fact is that this does not represent any material advance in dealing with this pressing issue.

"In marked contrast, even the Greens are silent on the fact that Lisbon breathes further life into EURATOM, the treaty which supports and promotes nuclear energy, and continues taxpayers financial contributions to the nuclear industry, and Fianna Fáil Minister Brian Lenihan suggests there is nothing we can do about it.

"Supporters of Lisbon say that to challenge or to reject this Treaty is anti-European. They have argued that rejection of Lisbon will bring economic devastation, political isolation and international ridicule.

"All of these claims are false. They are the stuff of scaremongering and blackmail.

"Like the vast majority of people on this island I believe that Ireland's place is in Europe. Many benefits have come as a result of our membership of the EU and continued co-operation with our European partners is essential if we are to meet the challenges facing us in the time ahead. And one thing is certain regardless of the outcome of the referendum Ireland's place in the EU will be secure.

"Dar le lucht 'Tá' nach bhfuil plean B ann. Ach bíonn plean B i gcónaí ann sa pholaitíocht. Trí dhiúltú don Chonradh Liospóin ar 12 Meitheamh thig linn margaidh níos fearr a shocrú. Ná glacaimis le rogha den dara ghrád!

"The question now facing us all is - is the Lisbon Treaty a good deal for Ireland, is it a good deal for the rest of Europe?

"The answer, I believe is a resounding no. " Críoch

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