Second referendum cannot be held, says O'Rourke


COMMITTEE:THERE IS no way that a second referendum can be held following the rejection of the Lisbon Treaty, a senior Fianna Fáil TD has said.

Former minister Mary O'Rourke yesterday predicted it would be hard to mount a referendum campaign to reverse the result. "You will get no foot soldiers. They will go on strike."

The Longford-Westmeath TD was speaking at a meeting of the Oireachtas Committee on European Affairs, where immigration emerged as one of the major unspoken issues of the campaign.

Ms O'Rourke said "mandarins" from the Department of Foreign Affairs were now talking to their counterparts in Brussels about putting the issue to the Irish people again.

She said some groups would want the Government to "give ABCD; the next will say if you give EFGH. Then the next crowd will want gold-dust under every mushroom. There is no way of placating every group. No way will there be a referendum."

In a discussion that focused on reasons for the rejection, several TDs and Senators identified mass immigration of workers from Eastern Europe and elsewhere in recent years as a major concern that influenced voters, though it never formed a public part of any campaign.

Fianna Fáil TD Michael Mulcahy said EU enlargement and immigration concerned many voters in his constituency of Dublin South Central.

"There's no question about it that a lot of people are concerned that the EU is going too far too fast. We are talking to Balkan countries and to Turkey (about membership). There is no clarity as to when it comes to an end," he said, before adding that he himself favoured Turkish membership.

Labour's Joe Costello agreed: "Ostensibly there was a difficulty with the public in relation to deepening powers of EU integration. There was a fundamental suspicion of the EU. There was a certain suspicion about European enlargement and the way it is taking place, with immigration into this country."

Committee chairman Bernard Durkan (Fine Gael) said he too was worried that xenophobia had become an issue.

Fianna Fáil deputy Timmy Dooley from Clare said it was billed as a reform treaty, but a lot of people were not sure about what was being reformed. "There is a great lack of knowledge about the institutions of Europe, and of the treaties that have gone before."

His constituency colleague Pat Breen of Fine Gael suggested that The Irish Times poll was an important development.

"Would the referendum have been beaten by a lot more were it not for The Irish Times poll the previous week?" he asked.

Michael McGrath, Fianna Fáil TD for Cork South Central, said the referendum had become a contest of sound-bytes which the Yes side lost hands-down. "There is a core who always vote No. But we lost the battle in the middle ground, which was disappointing."

Ms O'Rourke said baseless claims had abounded, particularly about the forced removal of children under the age of three, and compulsory conscription to a European army.

"People told me their sons and daughters over 16 would be taken and put into this European army, that's if they survived being snatched at three years of age. There were lies peddled incessantly door-to-door."