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Ireland and the EU needs a Treaty that delivers a better Europe – Doherty

9 July, 2009 - by Pearse Doherty TD


Speaking during a Seanad debate on the upcoming Lisbon Treaty referendum re-run Sinn Féin Donegal Senator Pearse Doherty reminded his colleagues of Fianna Fáil’s economic résumé of the last 12 years noting that the “challenge facing Ireland and Europe is building a union that meets the needs of its peoples. We need a Treaty that delivers a better Europe for all member state citizens, and it is in this context that Sinn Féin will continue to campaign for a better deal.” 

Senator Doherty said:

“On June 12th 2008 nearly one million people gave this government their verdict on the Lisbon Treaty. By rejecting the Treaty they gave the Taoiseach and the Minister for Foreign Affairs a strong and unequivocal mandate upon which to negotiate a better deal for Ireland and the EU with their European counterparts.

“The people wanted substantial change to the existing Treaty. We wanted a better deal; we wanted a new Treaty that contains the policy and political direction necessary to deliver a better Europe.

“As the global financial crisis began to unfold and the recession in Ireland deepened we also wanted a new Treaty that would challenge the failed policies of deregulation, centralisation and unfettered markets, the fingerprints of which are all over the text of the Lisbon Treaty.

“We wanted a new Treaty that reflected the new social and economic challenges facing member states. The government has failed to deliver.

“Not a single full stop or comma or word has been changed in the Lisbon Treaty. So when we come to vote on the Lisbon Treaty in October we will be voting on exactly the same treaty, with exactly the same consequences for Ireland and the EU, as we did on 12 June 2008.

“And let’s remember the concerns the government has not even acknowledged in its clarifications. There is no mention of the reduced influence of smaller member states. No mention of the controversial changes to international trade negotiations that were opposed by farmers and trade justice groups alike. No mention of the opening up of vital public services such as health and education to the market.

“Tánaiste Mary Coughlan said recently that saying yes to Lisbon was necessary to secure Ireland’s economic future. Let’s remember that the Minister’s former party leader and Taoiseach Bertie Ahern was one of the main authors of the Lisbon Treaty with input no doubt from his Finance Minister Brian Cowen. The Minister herself has lost over 200,000 Irish jobs since becoming responsible for enterprise, trade and employment. Their combined résumé on economic matters is not exactly inspiring.

“Irelands place is at the heart of Europe. This is not in question. The challenge facing Ireland and Europe is building a union that meets the needs of its peoples. We need a Treaty that delivers a better Europe for all member state citizens and it is in this context that Sinn Féin will continue to campaign for a better deal.” ENDS

Senator Pearse Doherty - Twenty-Eighth Amendment to the Constitution (Treaty of Lisbon) Bill 2009 Dáil debate – Seanad Speech Thursday July 9th 2009

The government has announced the referendum date for Lisbon 2.  On October 2nd the people will go to the polls for a second time to vote on the Lisbon Treaty.

On June 12th 2008 nearly one million people gave this government their verdict on the Lisbon Treaty. By rejecting the Treaty they gave the Taoiseach and the Minister for Foreign Affairs a strong and unequivocal mandate upon which to negotiate a better deal for Ireland and the EU with their European counterparts.

The people wanted substantial change to the existing Treaty. We wanted a better deal; we wanted a new Treaty that contains the policy and political direction necessary to deliver a better Europe. A Europe that is democratic and accountable; that promotes workers rights; and protects public services. A Europe that is positive and progressive.

As the global financial crisis began to unfold and the recession in Ireland deepened we also wanted a new Treaty that would challenge the failed policies of deregulation, centralisation and unfettered markets, the fingerprints of which are all over the text of the Lisbon Treaty.

We wanted a new Treaty that reflected the new social and economic challenges facing member states.

The government has failed to deliver.

Not a single full stop or comma or word has been changed in the Lisbon Treaty. The proposition that will go before the Irish people on October 2nd will be the very same Treaty they rejected on June 12th 2008.

When you brush aside all the meaningless rhetoric about ‘legally binding guarantees’ what you have is nothing more than a series of clarifications on minor aspects of the Lisbon Treaty.

So when we come to vote on the Lisbon Treaty in October we will be voting on exactly the same treaty, with exactly the same consequences for Ireland and the EU, as we did on 12 June 2008.

The promise of retaining our Commissioner must also be questioned. The agreement by the Council of Ministers tells us we will keep our Commissioner for an unspecified time.

Unless the this issue is written into an EU Treaty, the likely outcome is that the reduction in size of the Commission envisioned in Lisbon will be delayed 5 years until the next European Parliamentary elections in 2014.

This is an issue of trust. Would you trust this government to deliver on any commitment, be it on European or domestic matters? I certainly would not.

On neutrality the clarifications tell us that Irish troops can only be sent abroad with the consent of the Irish government in the Council of Ministers and the Oireachtas. This we already know.

But neutrality is not only what you do with your troops; it is also about the alliances you form, what you do with your resources, and what other member states do in your name.

Provisions for Permanent Structured Cooperation in the Lisbon Treaty create the real possibility that wars we do not support will be fought in our name and with our resources. While the Mutual Defence clause creates obligations incompatible with any internationally recognised definition of neutrality.

The government could have secured opt outs from these contentious areas of the Treaty that deal with Common Foreign and Security Policy and Common Security and Defence Policy. After their people rejected the Maastricht Treaty in 1992 the Danish government secured a number of opt-outs before putting the Treaty to a second vote.

With regards to taxation the government has completely missed the point. Under the Lisbon Treaty any move to a common corporation tax system across the EU would require a unanimous vote at the Council of Ministers. Anyone who read the Treaty could tell you this.

Sinn Féin’s concern on taxation rests with Article 48 of the Treaty. This article allows the Council of Ministers, by unanimous decision, to alter the text of existing EU Treaties.

Today if the EU wanted to agree a common corporation tax system they would have to do so as part of a broader Treaty revision process. This would require both unanimity at Council and ratification in each member state, including a referendum is this state.

However, Article 48 allows the Council of Ministers to make significant changes to the Treaties by unanimity.

EU leaders view national debate and referendums on issues of social and economic significance as ‘cumbersome’ – we view such processes as fundamental tools of a functioning progressive democracy.

So Lisbon does not affect our tax sovereignty, but it makes it easier for the Council of Ministers to make the change in future, and without the inconvenience of a referendum.

Again this is an issue of trust. Fianna Fail, despite their assurances, couldn’t be trusted on this or indeed any other matter of importance in my view.

And let’s remember the concerns the government has not even acknowledged in its clarifications. 

There is no mention of the reduced influence of smaller member states as a consequence of the new voting arrangements at Council. No mention of the 60 or so member state vetoes that will end. No mention of the controversial changes to international trade negotiations that were opposed by farmers and trade justice groups alike. No mention of the opening up of vital public services such as health and education to the vagaries of the market.

Tánaiste Mary Coughlan said recently that saying yes to Lisbon was necessary to secure Ireland’s economic future. Let’s remember that the Minister’s former party leader and Taoiseach Bertie Ahern was one of the main Authors of the Lisbon Treaty with input no doubt from his Finance Minister Brian Cowen. The Minister herself has lost over 200,000 Irish jobs since becoming responsible for enterprise, trade and employment. Their combined résumé on economic matters is not exactly inspiring.

Irelands place is at the heart of Europe. This is not in question.

The challenge facing Ireland and Europe is building a union that meets the needs of its peoples. We need a Treaty that delivers a better Europe for all member state citizens and it in this context that Sinn Féin will continue to campaign for a better deal.  

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