Arts and sport stars join broad coalition for a Lisbon Yes vote

 

“MOVE LIPS, move minds and make new meanings flare/Like ancient beacons signalling, peak to peak. . .”Poet Seamus Heaney has lent his voice to the campaign of newly formed group Ireland for Europe, which is promoting a Yes vote on the Lisbon Treaty. The organisation was launched in Dublin yesterday.

Although the Nobel Prizewinner was not there in person, the organisers showed a film of him reciting his poem Beacons at Bealtaine, along with a declaration that “there are many reasons for ratifying the Lisbon Treaty, reasons to do with our political and economic wellbeing”.

Other patrons listed by Ireland for Europe include U2 guitarist the Edge; U2 manager Paul McGuinness; Special Olympics promoter Mary Davis; Irish soccer captain Robbie Keane; film director Jim Sheridan; author and broadcaster Deirdre Purcell; Concern chief executive Tom Arnold; and trade unionists David Begg and Billy Attley.

Andrew Byrne, chief of operations with the organisation, said: “I’m not prepared to let politicians mess this up again.” It was important that the campaign be led by civil society, he said. “We have very ambitious plans.”

A website, www.irelandforeurope.ie, was going live simultaneously but there would also be an on-the-ground campaign. “We have undertaken comprehensive research to hone our message,” Mr Byrne said.

Looking ahead to the new campaign he said: “It’s not going to be easy ... There’s a job to be done and we are determined to do it.”

There was an online donation facility for those who wished to give financial support, he added.

Reflecting the emphasis on youth, the launch was held in the Button Factory, a music venue in the heart of Temple Bar.

Former president of the European Parliament, Pat Cox, who is director of Ireland for Europe, said: “We are a new, independent, non-party people’s movement.”

There was a “new deal” and a “new context”, he added.

He continued: “Our appeal to the people of Ireland is not to sit back and leave it to others, or not just to leave it to the politicians. We are asking you to stand up and be counted.”

Together the people of Ireland could “send a clear and unequivocal message to our European partners and to the wider world about who we are and about where we choose to stand”, he added.

Prof Brigid Laffan, chairwoman of Ireland for Europe, said the organisation was registered as a third party with the Standards in Public Office Commission.

“Membership of the EU is central to Ireland’s wellbeing,” Prof Laffan said. “Now is not the time to begin to regard the EU with fear.”

Rugby star Denis Hickie said he would be voting Yes in the referendum. “If Ireland votes Yes, it can become a much stronger voice in Europe,” he said.

General manager of Intel Ireland Jim O’Hara said the business community was “invisible” in the last referendum campaign. A No vote discouraged investment from abroad: “These companies are investing lots of money in Ireland and one of the things they want is certainty.”

Others listed as patrons include chairwoman of Women for Europe Olive Braiden; Chancellor of Dublin City University, David Byrne; concert promoter Harry Crosbie; former taoiseach Dr Garret FitzGerald; former MEP Alan Gillis; and BP chairman and former attorney general Peter Sutherland.