'Deep connection' with EU, says Martin

Thu, Jun 5, 2008, 01:00

Minister for Foreign Affairs Micheál Martin today issued an impassioned plea for support for the Lisbon Treaty, stressing Ireland’s “deep” economic and emotional connections with Europe.

Speaking at a European Business Association meeting in Dublin, Mr Martin said European Union states account for nearly two-thirds of the market for Irish exports and that Ireland shared a common bond with other EU citizens.

“We are a deeply connected people. We are both Irish and European,” he said. "The European aspect enhances rather than detracts from our unique and precious Irish identity."

Mr Martin warned that a rejection of the treaty in the referendum could “stall” progress within the EU and “plunge it into uncertainty” at a time of global economic turbulence.

He insisted the Government was fully committed to supporting the treaty and to preserving the gains Ireland has experienced during over three decades of EU membership.

Employment in Ireland has doubled to two million since Ireland joined the EU on January 1st, 1973, while foreign direct investment has “mushroomed” to billions of euro each year. This all could be put at risk if Ireland votes against ratifying Lisbon, he claimed.

“Quite frankly, a No vote will be read very clearly and negatively in the boardrooms where international investment decisions are made,” he said.

“We should stick to the winning formula we have pursued for 35 years as a committed EU insider and not a sulky, dissident member as No campaigners would wish us to become,” he said. He cautioned against being seen as “castaways or reluctant” Europeans by rejecting the treaty.

In his speech, Mr Martin renewed his attacks against No campaigners, accusing them of being anti-EU.

“They include Sinn Féin, which will tell you it is pro-EU but which has opposed every phase of EU treaty development. They also include Youth Defence, with its long and reactionary anti-EU history,” he said. He described Libertas as a shadowy Eurosceptic organisation about which ”little is known”.

He insisted the Lisbon Treaty does not force EU influence over Ireland’s corporate tax rates, nor does it lead to a loss of Irish neutrality. Claims by No campaigners to the contrary are “based on conspiratorial theories which assume the worst of our EU partners,” he said.

“The treaty is absolutely not about introducing abortion, hard drugs, the death penalty or, as Libertas recently claimed, the removal of three-year-old children from their homes into State detention,” Mr Martin said.

Moreover, the Minister said, there is “no question” of the EU having any influence over Ireland’s abortion laws. “This is recognised in a legally binding protocol to the Lisbon Treaty.”

Elsewhere, Chambers Ireland said today a Yes vote was “essential” for Irish business. The body also announced it has joined the Business Alliance for Europe, which represents nearly 40 of Ireland's leading business and professional organisations.

Chambers Ireland President David Pierce said a Yes vote would provide stability to the Irish economy, maintain our status as attractive for foreign direct investment, copperfasten Ireland’s veto over EU tax proposals and continue the “positive impact of the EU” in job creation.

"Ratification of the treaty will help Ireland tackle the challenges it currently faces, help continue our global competitiveness, and will create an improved EU that works better for all," Mr Pierce concluded.