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Mary Lou McDonald: EU Speech - Ard Fheis

4 March, 2005


Introduction

A Chairde,

I am honoured to open the 'EU, Neutrality and International Affairs' section at this year's Ard Fheis.

I want to begin by sending out international solidarity greetings to all those who strive for freedom, justice and peace around the world and to those who continue to suffer oppression and marginalisation - Sinn Féin stands with you.

I also want to acknowledge all of those international guests in attendance, and especially those in attendance from the European United Left/Nordic Green Left group in the European Parliament. In particular I want to thank the President of the group, Francis Wurtz for making us very welcome to the group, upon our election in June of last year, and in the time since then.

Motions 89 and 90

In opening this session I want to specifically speak to motions 89 and 90. Firstly, I want to commend to the Ard Fheis, the document 'Ireland and the EU Constitution'. The document offers a very clear assessment of the European Constitution and its ramifications for Ireland.

Sinn Féin fought the European elections in 2004 on a clear policy platform. As the 'Ireland and the EU Constitution' document states explicitly, we wanted an independent Ireland in a Europe of Equals ˆ a true partnership of equal sovereign states, co-operating in social and economic development in Europe and beyond. We wanted an EU that promotes peace, demilitarisation and nuclear disarmament and the just resolution of conflicts under the leadership of a reformed, renewed and democratised United Nations. Ultimately, we wanted a future United Ireland to take an active, leading role in such a reformed EU. This is our positive agenda for change and vision for Europe, it remains one which we are working towards both inside and outside the European Parliament every single day.

EU Constitution

The EU Constitution is a construct of, and for, the political and military elites within Europe. There is no clamour or groundswell of public opinion for this Constitution, yet those in power tell us consistently that it is

necessary. Its raison d'etre is to consolidate power at its heart, and to embark upon a political course which rewards the few and excludes the many.

Make no mistake, the EU Constitution will provide for the single biggest advance towards the creation of a European super-state since the beginnings of the European project. It will lay the legal foundations for a federal Europe and deepen the divide between citizens and those who hold power. That is why this debate is so crucial, and that is why we must oppose this Constitution.

Just for a few moments I would like to deal with some crucial areas of the EU Constitution.

The Privatisation agenda

Sinn Féin has warned time and again that the European Union is intent on turning public services into private enterprises.

The current draft EU Constitution is explicit in its desire for privatisation. It obliges the Member States to ensure the free movement of services thus limiting the ability of member states to provide universal free service provision through the welfare state or in health and education, by restricting the involvement of the public sector in such provision. Let me make this clear, both myself and Bairbre will fight tooth and nail both inside the European Parliament and in wider society to protect public services. We are demanding real and sustainable investment in public services, not their eradication.

The cumulative effect of this, and the the broader right-wing trend of European Union economic policy, will be the privatisation of public services and the creation of two-tier services such as health and education, whereby the wealthy can afford good quality services, and those on low pay or the unemployed will receive an even lower level of provision.

Militarization

The 26 Counties has a proud tradition of military neutrality and Sinn Féin has long defended this principle. However, and without exaggeration, the EU Constitution will effectively spell the end for neutrality in this

state.

Two provisions are of particular relevance and concern:-

Article 1-16 (2) states: Member States shall actively and unreservedly support the Union's common foreign and security policy in a spirit of loyalty and mutual solidarity and shall comply with the Union's action in this area. They shall refrain from action contrary to the Union's interests or likely to impair its effectiveness.'

In addition, the EU Constitution legislates for a 'European Defence Agency' where member states are required to progressively develop and increase their military capabilities and that the policy of the EU must be compatible with the common security and defence policy of NATO - of course as we are only too aware a member of NATO currently occupies the north east of our country.

The fact that there are no direct references to the rights of neutral states - speaks volumes for the mindset and policy direction of the EU militarists.

And there is not one single reference to the UN in the section, which remains the only truly inclusive multinational body to deal with international issues and crises.

Conclusion

With the support of this Ard Fheis, Sinn Féin is prepared to lead a campaign to oppose this Constitution - not because we are anti - European, but precisely because we want to see a different Europe, a better Europe.

This Constitution does not bring us closer to that goal; in fact it takes us further away. If it transpires that we are the only progressive political party opposing this Constitution, then will be very regrettable. However, we will not shy away from our responsibilities; we will provide leadership; we successfully led opposition to the NICE 1 campaign, and with political will and hard work we can successfully defeat this Constitution.

There is still no certain date set for the referendum, but it will occur before September 2006. This will be the first time that people in the 6 Counties will be consulted in referendum on the EU.

So Comrades, I urge you to support motions 89 and 90. Let us leave the Ard Fheis this weekend and prepare for the forthcoming referendum, in every town and village across Ireland.

A chairde, A chomraidi, tabhair tacaiocht do ruin 89 (ochto a naoi) agus 90 (nocha).

Go fagfaidh muid an Ard Fheis seo de domhnaigh agus go ndeanfaidh muid I ngach baile agus sraidbhaile in Eirinn ar ndicheal don reifreann ata le teacht.

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