Martin leads FF campaign for Yes vote to Lisbon

 

MINISTER FOR Foreign Affairs Micheál Martin has been given the job by Taoiseach Brian Cowen of leading Fianna Fáil’s campaign for a Yes vote in the October Lisbon Treaty referendum.

Legislation necessary to hold the referendum will be passed by the Dáil and Seanad after two days of debate this week, said Mr Martin, who yesterday published the legislation necessary for its holding.

Titled the 28th Amendment of the Constitution (Treaty of Lisbon) Bill 2009, Mr Martin said, if passed, it would “give significant additional powers to the Oireachtas” over European Union affairs.

Mr Martin has ordered that a postcard detailing guarantees given to Ireland by other EU states should be sent to 1.9 million homes in the country to ensure that the public is “well-informed”.

“The Government has ensured,” the Minister said, “that when the people vote on the Lisbon Treaty in October, it will come with new legally-binding guarantees to address the concerns which emerged during the referendum campaign last year.”

The legislation, he said, “contains a clear constitutional expression of Ireland’s commitment to the shared values of the Union, namely peace and the wellbeing of the people”, and reflected Ireland’s positive experience of EU membership.

The referendum, which will be supported by all of the major parties, is expected to be held on October 2nd, although a final decision on this not has yet been taken by Cabinet.

The Government’s negotiations with other EU states had led to an acceptable package for Ireland, including “the retention of an Irish commissioner and a solemn declaration on workers’ rights”

The changes, Mr Martin believed, address Irish concerns “in a positive, comprehensive and convincing fashion”, and restated the existing ban on Ireland joining any EU common defence arrangement.

The guarantees on taxation, on the protection of the right to life, the family and education and Irish neutrality will become legally binding, the Government says, immediately once the treaty enters into force.

EU leaders agreed at their last meeting that the Irish guarantees will be added to the next EU treaty as a protocol, which should mean that they will be included in the 2012 agreement granting membership to Croatia.

Welcoming the publishing of the legislation, Fine Gael TD Billy Timmins said he wanted Mr Martin to outline ways in which the scrutiny of EU legislation by the Dáil could be improved.

If passed the Lisbon Treaty would “give greater certainty to Europe”, help Ireland to cope with economic difficulties and “demonstrate the desire of Irish people to remain at the heart of Europe”.

Labour TD Joe Costello said the Government’s legislation was a “straightforward and improved version” of the first referendum following “considerable” Labour input.

The Labour Party, he said, would campaign for a Yes vote, although he was critical of the Government’s decision to rush the legislation through the Oireachtas in just two days.

TDs would have just six hours to debate it, he said.

“It is unacceptable to deal with all stages of any Bill on a single day without giving time for debate, reflection and amendment.

“It is quite outrageous to deal with such an important Bill as this one which seeks to amend the Constitution and will determine Ireland’s future relations with the European Union.”

Former MEP Patricia McKenna said Mr Martin’s decision to send a postcard to nearly two million homes was “an expensive propaganda stunt”.

“It is designed to give voters an illusion of legal certainty, is a gross abuse and waste of taxpayers’ money.

“Taxpayers’ money, from both sides of the Lisbon debate, is being used to peddle Government spin that these guarantees will somehow change the treaty’s impact on Ireland.”