Oireachtas report on Lisbon to be released today


THE REPORT of the All-Party Oireachtas Subcommittee on Ireland's Future in the European Union is due to be published this afternoon, following its presentation to the Joint Committee on European Affairs at Leinster House in the morning.

The final report is expected to be very similar in content to the draft circulated to subcommittee members.

As reported in yesterday's Irish Times, this version highlights the possibility of a second referendum on the Lisbon Treaty with appropriate supplementary material such as an EU decision or declaration on issues which are the subject of controversy in this country.

The 60-page report also recommends the setting up of a new panel whereby a minimum of five members of Seanad Éireann would be elected on the basis of their knowledge and practical experience of EU matters. This would have to be approved in a separate constitutional referendum.

Substantial amendments to the report were sought by Sinn Féin Senator Pearse Doherty and Independent Senator Ronan Mullen, both of whom campaigned for a No vote in last June's referendum.

Among proposals from Mr Doherty was an amendment stating that "the Irish Government should use the strong mandate which it has been given by the people and the political goodwill which it has built up over many decades to secure a new treaty".

Another section of the "majority" draft declares "that the EU has no powers in relation to sensitive moral and ethical issues" because the member states "work on the basis of ethical subsidiarity whereby each member state respects others' positions on moral and ethical issues".

Mr Mullen proposed the following as an addendum to this: "In particular terms, however, the trajectory of both the European Court of Justice and recent non-discrimination directives pose a threat to the already vague notion of ethical subsidiarity."

A further addendum from Senator Mullen refers to "the frequency with which Irish representatives at international fora endorse positions contrary to our constitutional values". He also sought an insertion which stated that, "the Charter of Fundamental Rights specifically removes mention of a man and a woman in relation to marriage and endorses by omission therapeutic cloning".

The draft report states that there appears to be no legal obstacle to a second referendum. It points out that a joint declaration by all the members could be used to clarify aspects of the treaty and remove misunderstandings.

A declaration could also be the way of ensuring the retention of each member state's right to nominate a commissioner.

Alternatively, there could be a formal decision by the member states, as was the case after the Danish rejection of the Maastricht Treaty in 1992. Unlike protocols, these do not require re-ratification of the treaty.

In a statement yesterday, Labour TD Joe Costello has accused Fine Gael and Sinn Féin of engaging in activities that could "sabotage" the work of the subcommittee, which was established to "analyse the challenges facing Ireland in the EU following the Lisbon Treaty referendum result".

"Sinn Féin has run to the media rejecting the subcommittee's report before it is finalised and Fine Gael has stolen some of the main ideas in the draft report, grafted them on to a few others and pre-empted the launch of the report.

"Neither Sinn Féin nor Fine Gael made a submission to the subcommittee, unlike the Labour Party which made a substantial submission . . . " Mr Costello said.

He continued: "All the political parties in the Dáil signed up in good faith to participate in the work of the subcommittee. It was not to be expected that some would engage in one-upmanship or sharp political practice.

He said it was "particularly disappointing" that Fine Gael members left the subcommittee while it was in session on Wednesday afternoon and hold a press conference which had "the effect of undermining the work of the subcommittee".