Committee urges solution to Lisbon impasse

 

The solution to the political dilemma posed by Ireland's rejection of the Lisbon Treaty must be found "that keeps Ireland at the heart of Europe" while arranging for the people's concerns to be accommodated by the other member-states, according to the report of the All-Party Lisbon Subcommittee of the Oireachtas.

Chaired by Fine Gael Senator Paschal Donohoe, the subcommittee was set up to plot a way forward after the Treaty was rejected by the electorate in last June's referendum.

It held meetings at Leinster House where over 110 different witnesses and more than 40 organisations gave evidence.

Although the report, launched at the National Gallery in Dublin this afternoon, does not explicitly endorse any particular option it leans heavily in favour of a second referendum with additional declarations, joint decisions or protocols to reassure Irish voters on different issues.

Among the main issues which aroused most controversy during the referendum were: abortion; neutrality and the alleged threat of conscription; protecting Ireland's low rate of corporation tax; and retaining the right to nominate a member of the European Commissioner.

The report states that ratification of the Treaty by parliament alone "is not a desirable option" and could be seen as an effort to circumvent the democratic will of the people.

The subcommittee also expresses "concerns" about opt-outs from key policy areas and points to the "growing feeling" that Denmark's opt-outs, from justice, defence and the single currency, had a "detrimental effect" on that country's national interests.

With regard to the renegotiation option promoted by Sinn Féin during the referendum, the report states that, "there is no indication from any Government that they might be willing to recommence negotiations on the existing Treaties or renegotiate the Lisbon Treaty".

A separate press conference was held by Sinn Féin at Buswell's Hotel where Dublin MEP, Mary Lou McDonald launched a document entitled "Majority View – Minority Report" outlining the party's dissenting view on the Treaty.

At the National Gallery news conference, Senator Ronan Mullen also declared his dissent from the official subcommittee report because it did not incorporate his concerns on the threat posed by the Treaty to traditional Irish positions on social and moral issues.

On the domestic front, the subcommittee report urges the establishment of a formal scrutiny reserve mechanism in the Oireachtas for dealing with EU legislative proposals.

It also recommends that a new panel of five members with EU expertise be elected to Seanad Éireann: this would require a constitutional referendum.

In the area of defence, the report urges that a two-thirds majority of the Dáil, instead of a simple majority as at present, be required as part of the triple-lock mechanism for sending Irish troops abroad on peacekeeping missions.