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  • irishtimes.com - Posted: August 31, 2008 @ 1:08 pm

    Denmark may provide the answer to Lisbon impasse

    Deaglán de Bréadún

    It now looks as if the Government may adopt the Danish strategy from 1993, whereby that country voted again on a previously-rejected EU treaty, approving it the second time with a number of opt-outs.  But a second Irish referendum seems unlikely to be held  until the local and European elections are out of the way next summer.

             As reported by my colleague Stephen Collins in The Irish Times, senior Irish officials visited Copenhagen in early August, seeking to learn from the manner in which the Danes resolved the Maastricht conundrum in the early 1990s.

            When the Danes voted No to the Maastricht Treaty in 1992, their government responded with a proposal to opt-out of four key areas of EU activity. In a second referendum the following year, the people approved the Treaty subject to opt-outs from the euro as well as common defence, justice and citizenship arrangements.

            The Copenhagen visit, revealed in the Danish newspaper Jyllands Posten, ties-in with a broad hint given by Minister for Foreign Affairs at a joint meeting of Oireachtas EU committees on July 3rd when, after Labour’s Joe Costello set out various options, Micheál Martin commented:

     ”In outlining the various options, he perhaps omitted to mention the  Danish rejection of a European treaty and the course of action taken on that occasion. I would not pre-empt the various options. We need to be open to explore avenues to ensure we remain at the heart of the European Union project. That is the agenda.”

             Meanwhile Dick Roche continues to make the running for Government on the issue, speaking out on every available occasion on the need for a second referendum at some stage. Solo run or stalking horse? A bit of both is probably the answer. Brian Cowen has said very little on the subject and looks as if he is being dragged along by his irrepressible junior minister for Europe.

           Fine Gael have made it clear they don’t want the issue complicating matters in the local and European elections in midsummer 2009. Micheál Martin attempted to set up a parliamentary commission with the other parties but did it in such a high-handed way (out of character for the man, it has to be said) that the opposition felt obliged to pour cold water on the proposal.

          It looks like the plan is to use the opinion survey - commissioned by the Government to assess the public’s reasons for voting No – as a launching-pad for the “second referendum with opt-outs” proposal.

            The notion of running the essentials of Lisbon through the Oireachtas, so that Europe can consider the Treaty ratified, is probably a non-runner. The people have spoken and parliament cannot override their decision.

           Whether a second referendum, even with opt-outs, will be approved by the electorate in, say October next, is a moot point , however, especially with the economy in bad shape and the Government under heavy fire for their approach to dealing with what looks, sounds and feels like a  recession.

            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

    • Ian says:

      I can’t see Labour supporting Lisbon II – If there is an opt-out of the Charter of Fundamental Rights I would almost be certain they would campaign against

    • You may be right. Labour’s recent statements regarding Lisbon have indicated that the party’s support for the Treaty in a second referendum cannot be taken for granted. You will no doubt recall that SIPTU refused to back Lisbon because the Government would not commit to the right to collective bargaining contained in the Charter. Opinion poll evidence suggests that two-thirds of Labour’s support-base were anti-Lisbon. Of course, as we all know, their rivals for the left vote, Sinn Féin, got a new lease of life out of opposing the Treaty. Deaglán

    • Brian Boru says:

      Personally I would require an optout from the Charter of Fundamental Rights as an absolute precondition for even considering reversing my no vote. And no – my concerns thereof do not relate to the issues brought up by Cóir about abortion or gay marriage. I am in fact an atheist. But I want to preserve the sovereignty invested in the Irish Supreme Court in terms of interpreting our rights in line with the Irish Constitution. The Charter, by being enshrined in EU law by Lisbon, threatens this, as the European Court of Justice would have the task of interpreting our rights in the context of the Charter. This is unacceptable to me, not least because if an anomalous ruling came from the ECJ, we would not be able to address the anomaly without unanimous ratification of changes to the Charter. Compare that to the relative ease of addressing problems in the Irish Constitution via referendums in this country. Why make life difficult for ourselves in this regard?

    • Tim says:

      “The people have spoken and parliament cannot override their decision”.

      You would think so, wouldn’t you?
      I wonder if the MILLIONS of people in France and The Netherlands thought so in 2005?

      Where is democracy in Europe?

    • Ian says:

      Also ICTU said at an early stage that they would not support Lisbon with an opt-out on the Charter similar to Poland and UK

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