Government has secured no changes to original treaty
OPINION:The Irish people are being asked to vote on exactly the same text they rejected last time, writes GERRY ADAMS
ON FRIDAY you have an opportunity to shape the future of Europe. The question you have to ask yourself is whether the Lisbon Treaty is a good deal for Ireland and whether it takes the European Union in the direction you want it to go. On June 12th last year the people said No to the Lisbon Treaty. They did so because they wanted a better deal for Ireland and for Europe. The result presented the Government with a strong mandate to negotiate a better deal.
At the time Sinn Féin presented Brian Cowen with detailed proposals as to how we felt the concerns of the electorate could be met. These included positive proposals outlining how the EU could be made more democratic and more responsive to the needs of ordinary people.
What did the Government do? They prevaricated, sat on their hands and did nothing. Just as they did on other issues and particularly the economy. As a result they have not secured a single change to the text of the Lisbon Treaty. On Friday you will be voting on exactly the same text as you did last year.
The Government and their supporters on the Yes side are claiming that while the text of the treaty has not changed somehow the proposition before the people has.
The Council of the European Union has a very different view. In its June 2009 Presidency Conclusions, the council clearly stated that the guarantees, “clarify but not change either the content or the application of the treaty”.
The Lisbon Treaty proposal to reduce the size of the European Commission from 2014 remains in place in article 9D.
The Protocol on the Internal Market, which will strengthen the hand of the commission and force the hand of the European Court of Justice to pursue an anti-worker agenda, remains in place.
The detailed changes to the areas of common security and defence policies contained in article 28, so detrimental to this State’s neutrality, remain in place.
And the highly controversial, self-amending article 48 that removes the automatic right to referendums on all future treaty changes remains in place.
If the treaty wasn’t good enough in 2008, why would it be good enough in 2009? If it was a bad deal last June then surely it remains a bad deal this October.
The Government and its supporters on the Yes side have stopped talking about the Lisbon Treaty itself. Instead they are making increasingly outrageous claims that a second No vote will result in the loss of jobs, investment and influence.
The claims on jobs and investment are not new. Fianna Fáil and their supporters in Fine Gael and Labour made the same arguments last year. It seems that it’s not just the treaty that hasn’t changed.
So what have the experts to say on these claims?
In July of this year IDA chief executive Barry O’Leary said: “It should be noted that 2008 saw a 14 per cent increase in foreign direct investment on the previous year.”
Saying No to Lisbon in 2008 had no impact whatsoever on inward investment. The same will be true if we reject the treaty on Friday.
Speaking to the Oireachtas sub-committee on the Future of Europe on October 21st, 2008, Paul Rellis, managing director of Microsoft Ireland said: “I have not seen any material impact on jobs, market access or sales in recent months attributable to the rejection of the Lisbon Treaty.”
International economic commentators have dismissed claims by the Government as mere scare tactics.
The fact is that most international observers are smart enough to recognise that a second No vote would not affect Ireland’s place in the European Union. Decisions on jobs and investment will be made on the basis of what the Government does here to make it an attractive place to do business, including whether it invests in education and infrastructure.
Rather than help our economy recovery, the Lisbon Treaty will, in my view, make recovery more difficult.
The treaty was negotiated by Fianna Fáil. It was cut from the same right-wing policy cloth that underpinned the last 15 years of government economic policy in this country. These same policies caused the banking crisis, the property crash, the doubling of unemployment in 12 months to 400,000, and the massive public finances deficit.
If the Government has got it so wrong on the economy how can it be trusted on the Lisbon Treaty? It the Government is wrong on Nama and “An Bord Snip Nua”, then how can it be right on Lisbon?
In 2008 Sinn Féin outlined the key reasons why the people should oppose the Lisbon Treaty.
The treaty reduces Irish power in the EU: we will lose our permanent commissioner from 2014 and our voting strength on the council will be cut by half while the bigger states double theirs. It is bad for public services and workers’ rights, will lead to further downward pressure on wages and increased “competition” and privatisation in vital public services such as health and education.
The treaty will further undermine the viability of rural Ireland and family farming through the strengthened powers for the EU trade commissioner effectively ending the Government’s veto on mixed international trade deals.
The treaty states for the first time that there will be a common defence and obliges all member states to increase military spending.
The Government and its supporters on the Yes side are telling you that a better deal is not possible. I simply don’t agree. There would not be a Belfast Agreement if that approach had been adopted.
During the early days of the peace process the Irish people were told that the Downing Street Declaration was the only deal possible. But Sinn Féin kept negotiating. The Irish people were then told that the framework document was the best deal possible. We didn’t agree with that either. In the end and as a result of political will and hard work we collectively negotiated the Belfast Agreement.
Just as a better deal was possible in the peace process, a better deal is possible in Europe – a deal based on democracy, equality and prosperity; a deal that replaces the outdated and discredited Lisbon Treaty with a new deal for the new and challenging times in which we find ourselves.
The first step in securing that better deal for Europe is voting No to the Lisbon Treaty on Friday.
Gerry Adams MP is leader of Sinn Féin