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Ireland's place in Europe is secure - Ó Caoláin

3 September, 2009 - by Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin TD


Ireland’s place is in Europe. Ireland’s place in Europe is secure. The issue facing the electorate on October 2 is the future of the European Union, Ireland’s place in that future and how we as equal members of the EU can shape that future.

On June 12th 2008 almost 900,000 people rejected the Lisbon Treaty. They did so because they believed that it was a bad Treaty. They did so because they wanted a better deal for Ireland and for Europe.

The result presented the Irish government with a strong mandate to go to the Council of Ministers and negotiate a better Treaty for Ireland and Europe.

At the time Sinn Féin presented Brian Cowen with very detailed proposals as to how we believed the legitimate concerns of the electorate in this state could be met.

What did the government do? How did they use that mandate? Just like their mismanagement of the economy over the same period, they prevaricated, and then they conspired to pull the wool over the eyes of their own fellow citizens.

As a result they have secured not a single change to the text of the Lisbon Treaty. On October 2nd we will be voting on exactly the same treaty, with exactly the same consequences for Ireland and the EU, as we did last year.

If it wasnt good enough for the electorate then why on earth should it be good enough for us now.

At the European Council meeting in June of this year, the government and their 26 EU counterparts agreed so called legally binding guarantees on neutrality, taxation and ethical issues. They also agreed a “solemn declaration” on workers’ rights and reiterated their promise for every member state to retain a Commissioner.

On this basis the Yes side argue, the 53% of the electorate who rejected the Lisbon Treaty should reconsider their position and in turn support the very same Treaty.

The simple fact of the matter is that nothing in the so-called guarantees nor in the Solemn Declaration changes either the text of the Treaty or the impact that it will have on Ireland or on the EU.

In addition to arguing that the so called guarantees provide a rationale for supporting what is a bad Treaty, the government and their allies in Labour and Fine Gael are using the economic crisis to scare people into supporting the Treaty.

We are told that we will lose investment, jobs, and crucially support from our EU counterparts.

The truth is very different. Among the causes of this recession are the failed economic policies of this government and their counterparts across Europe. Policies of deregulation, competition, privatisation, low taxation.

Many of these same failed right wing politicians were responsible for negotiating the Treaty and many of their failed right wing policies are contained in the Treaty, most notably in the Protocol on the Internal Market and Competition.

The route to economic recovery rests not in Lisbon, but in a change of government and policy at home and within the EU.

In 2008 Sinn Féin outlined the key reasons why people should oppose Lisbon. They remain the same.

The Lisbon Treaty reduces Ireland’s power in the EU – we will not, I believe, retain our permanent commissioner post 2014 and our voting strength on the Council will be cut by half while the bigger states double their strength.

The Lisbon Treaty will make the economic crisis even worse by forcing through policies that caused the recession, reducing the Irish government’s ability to take essential decisions, driving down pay and conditions and further undermining workers rights and public services.

The Lisbon Treaty erodes our neutrality, particularly in the detailed provisions of Article 28 , drawing us into a common defence and obliging us to increase military spending.

The Lisbon Treaty will further undermine the viability of rural Ireland and family farming through the strengthened powers for the EU Trade Commissioner contained in Article 188C and the effective ending of the Irish government’s veto on mixed international trade deals.

Crucially the simplified revision procedure contained in Article 48 removes our automatic right to a referendum on future changes to existing treaties.

So what happens if we vote No again? Ireland remains a full and equal member of the EU. We won’t be expelled or marginalised. The Lisbon Treaty falls and the EU carries on as before. Inward investment will not be affected – indeed 2008 saw a 14% increase in foreign direct investment on the previous year despite the scaremongering claims of the yes side. And crucially a space opens for a debate on the future of the EU.

Sinn Féin believes that we need a new treaty for the new times we are living in. A treaty that:

guarantees a permanent commissioner for all member states beyond 2014;
removes all self-amending articles including the simplified revision procedure in Article 48;
provides a comprehensive protocol on our neutrality;
promotes vital public services;
protects workers rights through the inclusion of the European Trade Union Confederation Social Progress Clause to protect workers’ rights;
substantially amends Article 188 dealing with international trade agreements including a cast-iron veto on mixed World Trade Organisation agreements

On October 2nd we have a big decision to take. Do we want to play our part in creating a democratic, equal and just Europe or will we allow the same failed right wing politicians who created the current economic crisis to remain in power, implementing the same failed right wing policies in Dublin and Brussels.

Vote for a better deal for Ireland and for Europe. Vote for a new treaty for new times. Vote ‘no’ on October 2nd.

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