Coalition to provide 'clarity' on Lisbon by end of year


MINISTER FOR Foreign Affairs Micheál Martin has said the Government intends providing clarity on how it plans to respond to the rejection of the Lisbon Treaty in December.

"Certainly by the end of the year people need clarity if nothing else in terms of the future," said Mr Martin at an EU foreign ministers meeting in Brussels.

"People will need to know there are obvious timetables under what conditions certain things are going to happen."

When asked if "clarity" meant the Government deciding whether to hold a second referendum on Lisbon, Mr Martin said it might not be on that issue alone as the Government was undecided.

"It was a tight enough election but it was a definitive decision against Lisbon as it stands. It's far too soon to be speculating on whether you have another one or if you have another one," said Mr Martin.

EU leaders are scheduled to attend a summit in Brussels on December 11th-12th when it is likely that Taoiseach Brian Cowen will tell his counterparts how Ireland intends to solve the impasse.

Mr Martin said he accepted there was no appetite for renegotiation of Lisbon among his EU counterparts and the Government had to work on its options within this context.

"It's not being arrogant or dismissive . . . In the past when treaties were not passed, then short of renegotiation there were other avenues that were opened up and utilised not least ourselves in terms of Nice I and Nice II," he said referring to the declaration on neutrality achieved by Ireland in 2002

Mr Martin also criticised certain trade unions for using their support or opposition for Lisbon as a "bargaining chip" in the current social partnership talks. Siptu, for example, has said it will not support Lisbon unless the Government introduces legislation to allow collective bargaining for workers.

Mr Martin said it was hard to fathom why some unions opposed Lisbon given that it contained the charter of fundamental rights, which advanced the cause of workers.

"The idea that we are going to negotiate with this group or that group or that sector and say: 'please vote Yes and we will give you X,Y or Z.' I don't think that is a modus operandi that we can go down," he said.

Fine Gael leader Enda Kenny said that his party will oppose the holding of a second referendum on the same day as the local and European polls in 2009.

"If there is a rerun of the Lisbon referendum, it should be done on its own . . . " said Fine Gael foreign affairs spokesman Billy Timmins.

The Labour Party adopted a similar position, saying that "it would be a complete non-starter, and political suicide" and would be exploited by Libertas founder Declan Ganley.