Sinn Féin - On Your Side

Where is Europe going?

4 December, 2008

Sinn Féin EU East Candidate Cllr. Tómas Sharkey this afternoon took part in an international panel discussion entitled 'Where is Europe going?' hosted by Europe Direct.

Speaking at the event Cllr. Sharkey said:

"On June 12th the people of Ireland gave the government their judgment on the Lisbon Treaty. By rejected the Treaty voters gave the Taoiseach an unambiguous mandate to bring to his European counterparts. The Taoiseach and his government have refused to carry out this mandate. Instead they have kowtowed to their EU peers.

"Before and after the Lisbon Treaty debate the Irish people have been vocal about what direction they think Europe should take. Like many millions of member state citizens across the EU the Irish people have rejected the EU institutions bias towards privatisation and militarisation.

"The peoples demand for a social Europe that puts the economic and social needs of the people first is now more relevant than ever as member state economies struggle with the current economic downturn affecting the developed world.

"The provision of public services such as health, education, and infrastructure must be protected from privatisation. If we have learned just one thing from the current finance and banking crisis it is that private interests cannot be trusted to deliver on the public good. Public services must be paid for by public monies and delivered by the state. This is a model that has worked. Privatisation has failed. Unfettered competition has failed.

"In Ireland there is strong support for the European Union. Sinn Féin believes Ireland's place is firmly in Europe but we are ambitious for what we can collectively achieve for all our peoples. The current direction of the EU is one that is underpinned by an overly centralised, militarised, privatised and bureaucratic model. It is a model designed to benefit first private interests, Eurocrats and the EU political establishment and the people second. We believe this must change.

"The rejection of the EU Constitution by the French and Dutch in 2005 offered EU leaders an opportunity to review the current direction of Europe. They failed to take this opportunity. They failed to listen to their people. Instead they sought a method to circumvent the electorate. This method became the Lisbon Treaty. By bypassing the need for referenda the political elite found a mechanism to bypass the need for a popular vote and in turn progress their own model, a model the peoples have rejected.

"Ireland, the sole member state to hold a popular vote, rejected the Lisbon Treaty. The Irish government's response. To tell us our decision was wrong and we must vote again. It appears the Irish government and the political institutions of the EU have forgotten that in a democracy the people are not wrong. The most basic tool of social democracy is a vote. Democracy works on the premise that a vote is never wrong.

"I want to commend the organisers of this event. Its forum is unique. It takes place in a public plaza in the centre of Duisburg's shopping district. The public have enjoyed active participation in the event by sitting in on the discussion in an environment that is part of their day to day lives. This is participatory democracy in action. Back at home Sinn Féin proposed to Ireland's Minister of Foreign Affairs that the parliament take the same approach by bringing the post Lisbon debate and the future of the EU out into wider society. He would not agree to do so. A parliamentary committee set up to discuss the same issues also refused with Sinn Féin members of parliament and the Senate made the same proposition to them.

"Europe must hold on tight to its social model despite the efforts of the institutions to grab this model from our reach." ENDS

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