Now get out of that: the Lisbon conundrum
Deaglán de Bréadún
It’s not every day you see prominent Fianna Fáil people disagreeing in public. This was the spectacle provided by the Humbert Summer School in Co Mayo (the programme bilocates between Ballina and Killala).
On the prospect of a second Lisbon referendum, Mary O’Rourke said, in effect, “Not on your nanny”. Kick it way down the road and do what you can in the meantime by legislation. Enter Dick Roche, Minister of State for European Affairs, who was not listed on the original programme, to say that “ultimately” there was no other option and legislation wouldn’t work. Both stressed that they were speaking personally.
Mayr O’Rourke is a formidable politician. A former minister herself, she is the aunt of the Minister for Finance Brian Lenihan and Minister of State for Integration Conor Lenihan. She is much more of an insider in FF than Mr Roche, for all his vast knowledge and expertise in European matters.
Meanwhile the rest of the EU is tugging at Brian Cowen’s sleeve. When are you going to fix this thing, mon ami?
From a basic political point of view — i.e. getting votes in future elections — the most congenial option for the Government would be, as the song says, to let it lie there and let it die there. But Europe is impatient and we depend on our relationship with Brussels for so much these days.
There is a difference of view among the experts about the legislative option. Senator Eugene Regan of Fine Gael, a barrister by profession and former member of Peter Sutherland’s cabinet when the latter was an EU commissioner, felt it was eminently possible to “strip out” the less-contentious parts of the Treaty and vote them through the Oireachtas. This would fulfil the requirement to have the Treaty ratified by all 27 member-States. The rest could be put to referendum in due course.
But the vastly-experienced Noel Dorr, who has had a distinguished career representing this country as a senior diplomat and knows both the EU and the UN inside out, told the Humbert devotees at the weekend that he did not think legislation was a runner. The people have voted against the ratification of Lisbon and that would appear to be that. They are the “ultimate repository” of sovereignty.
Dick Roche also gave it as his “personal” view that the legislative option was not on. So what’s the likely outcome? At this stage it looks like a second referendum but not for a long, long time. After the local and European elections next summer seems the likeliest choice for Brian Cowen. Brussels will have to be understanding of his predicament.
Whatever happens, the Government will have to address the issue. The No side would be furious if the legislative route were followed, although there might be little of a practical nature they could do. A second referendum would also raise vociferous objections and there is no certainty whatsoever that the Treaty would be passed next time around.
Wasn’t Bertie the cute hoor to get out when he did?
Deaglán de Bréadún, Political Correspondent, The Irish Times and author of The Far Side of Revenge: Making Peace in Northern Ireland, recently published in a second edition by Collins Press, Cork www.collinspress.ie