Cowen in New York but with Lisbon on his mind
Deaglán de Bréadún
New York: Brian Cowen did not seem particularly put out by the remark attributed to France’s President Sarkozy that Ireland needs to have a second vote on the Lisbon Treaty. The Taoiseach arrived here last night for a series of engagements, mainly to do with business, the economy and investment. But his first task was to open an exhibition at the Irish Arts Centre on West 51st Street, a very pleasant and quite touching occasion where photographs of elderly Irish-Americans taken by John Minihan were put on display, with many of the subjects in attendance, some of them over 100 years of age.
Resisting the plaintive appeals of the media for comments on the way in, Cowen finally got around to talking to us afterwards, by which time it was after midnight back home. His key point was: “President Sarkozy, on the remarks attributed to him, has a view and obviously we have to talk to him as President of the EU about these matters. We need to look at all the options to see where we go from here but obviously we have had a referendum in recent times and he needs to take account of that as well.”
This is Cowen’s style on these occasions: an almost imperceptible sideswipe at the alleged comment made by Sarkozy. But it is on the record that the Taoiseach is reminding the French President to take account of the Irish referendum result.
The Sarkozy story broke when the Taoiseach’s party were in the air on the Government jet and greeted them when they landed in the Big Apple. They were clearly not amused but the consistent message coming out from that quarter is that the Government won’t be rushed into anything and no decision on a second referendum is imminent. The survey it has commissioned will buy the Government some time and Cowen is only committed to giving a progress report at the next EU Summit in October.
That won’t be good enough for Chancellor Merkel in particular who is understood to have been lobbying Dublin, from the day the votes were counted, for a second trip to the polls. But defeat in a second referendum would hasten the end of this government and would not enhance the career prospects of Brian Cowen.
Interestingly, Brian Hayes of Fine Gael was very unenthusiastic on RTE’s The Week in Politics at the prospect of holding a referendum within the next 12 months, i.e., before the local and European elections next summer. You can bet that the candidates for the pro-Lisbon parties feel the same way.
The other side of the argument is that we could be kicked out of Europe. Would scare tactics work with the electorate or would they rebound? Difficult to know. Scare stories worked very well for elements on the No side last time out.
Deaglán de Bréadún (on vacation until August 18th)