Libertas may contest European elections

Wed, Jul 16, 2008, 01:00

LIBERTAS FOUNDER Declan Ganley has confirmed that the group is raising money across Europe as it considers running candidates throughout the EU in next year's elections to the European Parliament.

And if Ireland voted a second time on the Lisbon Treaty, he predicted an even bigger No vote.

Mr Ganley made his comments before news emerged of French president Nicolas Sarkozy's reported view that the Irish electorate would have to vote again on Lisbon.

Speaking in Washington yesterday, Mr Ganley said a decision about running candidates in the election would hinge on the response by European governments to Ireland's rejection of the Lisbon Treaty.

"In terms of 2009, we're assessing the situation," he said. "Clearly, there is going to be a need to address this democratic deficit and, if the only mechanism available is the 2009 European elections across Europe, somehow the people of Europe need to be given the opportunity for a say on the Lisbon Treaty.

"That will engage a huge fundraising effort right across Europe, something we've actually already embarked upon. We are fundraising across Europe now, using our website and others to do that. It would be a very major effort and logistical exercise, but it's something that could be done."

Earlier, Mr Ganley told the Heritage Foundation, an influential conservative think tank, that it would be "ridiculous" and "anti-democratic" to ask the Irish people to vote on the treaty again.

He said that, as no other EU state was likely to hold a referendum on the treaty, next year's elections to the European parliament might be the best opportunity for Europeans to make their feelings known about it. He said the elections could provide a platform for a "proxy referendum".

"The European elections next year might could provide the platform to, if you like, be a proxy referendum on the Lisbon Treaty. If they don't listen to the fact that the Lisbon Treaty is dead, maybe the citizens of Europe will decide to give their politicians a referendum - one they may not be seeking, but to give it to them anyway," he said.

Mr Ganley was invited to the Heritage Foundation by the think tank's Margaret Thatcher Centre for Freedom, which includes former British Conservative party officials. Mr Ganley was billed by the organisation as "a modern-day freedom fighter".

The foundation, which was founded in 1973, says its mission is "to formulate and promote conservative public policies based on the principles of free enterprise, limited government, individual freedom, traditional American values, and a strong national defence".

It has a board of 22 trustees and three honorary trustees. Mrs Thatcher is its patron and she has said she looks to the foundation "to carry forward my legacy in the United States" because it is "an organisation committed to defending and restoring sound conservative principles".

Details of the trustees and their backgrounds are available on the foundation's website - www.heritage.org.

However, speaking to reporters in Washington Mr Ganley sought to distance himself from the British Euroscepticism of his hosts, declaring that he believed in a common European foreign policy and favoured deeper political integration.

"I believe in the European project. I believe in the absolute necessity of its success," he said.