Sinn Féin - On Your Side

Mac Lochlainn calls for a new treaty for new times

20 February, 2009


On June 12th last year, over 860, 000 Irish people rejected the Lisbon Treaty. With a turnout of voters higher than the second referendum on the Nice Treaty in 2002, the Irish Government were given a decisive mandate to return to their European partners and negotiate a better deal for the people of Ireland, Europe, and the wider world.

The Irish people could not be accused of being out of step with the rest of Europe, as in recent years; the people of France and Holland had rejected the European Constitution, a document almost identical to the Lisbon Treaty, which succeeded it.

Indeed, it was absolutely clear that the Irish people wanted our state to remain at the heart of Europe. The rejection of the Lisbon Treaty was not motivated by opposition to the European Union or some new-found Euroscepticism. It was a pro-EU decision, a vote for a different kind of EU.

So what did our Government do? As little as possible! Worse still, they advised EU leaders to ignore the concerns of the Irish people and continue the ratification process.

Our Taoiseach, Brian Cowen, sat on his hands for five months and then at the eleventh hour, met a handful of his EU counterparts ahead of the December European Council meeting in Brussels.

At that council meeting, the Government committed itself to re-running the Lisbon Treaty for a second time. In return, they have agreed to a deal that would see EU leaders agree not to reduce the size of the European Commission for the time being and sign a number of 'guarantees', on a small number of issues.

However, the Government are misleading the electorate in their description of this "deal". Ratifying the Lisbon Treaty would give away our automatic right to a commissioner. The Government's "deal" may see the commissioner remain for an unspecified period of time, but the power to reduce the size of the commission will be given to the council and sooner rather than later we will see an end to one commissioner per member state.

Equally, guarantees or declarations are not legally binding. They do not have the same legal status as the text of a treaty or protocols to a treaty.

They are merely political declarations made by politicians with no legal status or force.

They are like the promises of a government at election time, made only to be broken.

More fundamentally, the "deal" outlined by the Government in Brussels does not address the substantive concerns raised by the electorate. The broader issue of the EU's democratic deficit, its erosion of workers' rights and public services, its emerging foreign and defence policy agendas, and its promotion of free trade over fair trade will not be addressed.

The people of Ireland and Europe deserve better than the Lisbon Treaty. We need a new treaty for new times.

At some stage later this year, the Irish Government will have to publish the details of these so-called legal guarantees. They will attempt to tell us that these guarantees have parity with treaties and protocols that have to be ratified by all 27 members states of the European Union. They will try and sell us a pup and put the very same Lisbon Treaty back to the Irish people that we rejected last June, in a new referendum.

The context against which the national debate on the Lisbon Treaty now takes place has changed. Ireland is now in recession, the economy is haemorrhaging jobs and the Government has no clue how to turn things around.

The Government is shamefully hoping to play on the insecurities of people by arguing that Ireland's economic woes are because we rejected Lisbon. They tell us that our international reputation has been damaged. Our international reputation was damaged last April when Bertie Ahern had to resign on foot of charges of corruption.

It was again damaged when the Government nationalised THE most corrupt bank in the state, Anglo Irish Bank. And let's be frank, Ireland's reputation has been damaged by decades of Fianna Fáil corruption. It has been damaged because Fianna Fáil led Governments have fuelled a false economy that benefited those in their golden circle and failed you and me.

It is the failed policies of unfettered markets, deregulation, and privatisation that has fuelled the recession in Ireland and Europe.

Successive Fianna Fáil led governments, like their European counterparts, not only supported these policies they also promoted them. Fine Gael and the now defunct PD's too.

One of the cornerstones of Barack Obama's successful campaign for the Presidency of the United States of America was confronting the culture of vested interests and big business lobbyists in the corridors of Washington. Like Washington, the corridors of Brussels are packed with our own vested interests and big business lobbyists.

Their fingerprints were all over the EU Constitution rejected by people on the ground and those fingerprints remained firmly on the Lisbon Treaty, a slightly amended version of the Constitution. The very people, who have led our world economy into global recession through, unbridled greed and reckless speculation, inspired the Lisbon Treaty.

The people of Ireland and Europe deserve better than the Lisbon Treaty. We need a new treaty for new times.
Ireland's place is firmly within Europe. The Irish people have been loud in their support for the European Union. The Irish people in their rejection of the Treaty gave Europe a truly positive message.

We want a different Europe. One based on solidarity and fairness. A Europe of peace. A Europe that respects the right of each member state to make its own decisions on sovereign matters. One that prioritises workers rights and public services. A Europe of equals.

The people of Ireland and Europe deserve better than the Lisbon Treaty. We need a new treaty for new times.

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