Cowen rules out possibility of third Lisbon Treaty vote

 

Taoiseach Brian Cowen has ruled out holding a third vote on the Lisbon Treaty if it is rejected by the electorate on Friday.

In the last Fianna Fáil referendum campaign conference this afternoon, Mr Cowen said the vote would be “final”, but he warned a No outcome would put the European integration project at risk.

Speaking in front of a large assembly of the international media in the ballroom of the Burlington Hotel in Dublin, he said that every time Ireland had voted in favour of a European Union treaty, the country benefited as a result.

Mr Cowen said the EU had listened to the concerns underlying last year’s treaty rejection and the guarantees received as a result were both “comprehensive” and “watertight”.

These guarantees would be lodged with the United Nations, thereby acquiring the same international standing as the Belfast Agreement of 1998.

Claiming that the guarantees had “substantially changed the dynamic of the referendum”, the Taoiseach said a Yes vote would send “a powerful signal” to investors that Ireland would remain at the heart of Europe.

“In less than 48 hours the Irish people will go to the polls to make one of the most important decisions in our recent political history, " Mr Cowen said. "We have to face a clear choice on Friday and the stakes could not be higher. Will we move forward together with Europe or will we take an uncharted and more uncertain road?

“This referendum is not about ‘politics as usual’. It goes beyond any issue of party, organisation or locality. It is about the country’s future.”

Recalling how former taoisigh had been strong advocates of Irish membership of the then-European Economic Community, he said: “[Sean] Lemass spearheaded Ireland’s initial application to join the then-EEC and his successor Jack Lynch led us into Europe following a successful referendum campaign.

“It is an irrefutable fact that every time Ireland has voted to support the development of the EU, our country has benefited. Our infrastructure, both material and social, has thrived through our engagement with the European Union.

“Our confidence and sense of self has blossomed and we have seen that we can compete and win with the best in all aspects of our lives,” he said.

Only a Yes vote would ensure investor confidence in Ireland, protect its influence in vital economic decisions and reform Europe so that it was more dynamic and effective. “These are not empty political claims. They have been backed by the overwhelming majority of organisations who will drive growth and job creation.”

Recalling the rejection of the treaty in the first referendum he said: “Europe has listened to the concerns of the Irish people as expressed by them in last year’s vote.

“After the referendum I knew that time was required before deciding on the next steps. The Government worked to understand both the concerns of the Irish people and the views of our partners in the union. Rather than going for a rapid response, we wanted to build a consensus.

“Last year many people who could in no way be called eurosceptic came to hold concerns about the potential impact of the Lisbon Treaty. There was no single issue involved.

“While many anti-EU groups actively promoted these concerns, the public was entitled to have its concerns viewed as sincere and deserving of a response.

“We went to our partners in the other states with these concerns and they were unanimous in being willing to find a way forward which provided a substantive response to the concerns of the Irish people.

“At the December Council last year and the June Council this year our partners showed goodwill and understanding towards the Irish people. Each of the major concerns of the Irish people has received a detailed response. There was no shading of the issues or areas of doubt.

“The guarantees agreed in June are comprehensive and they are watertight. Those who have made partisan claims, in the course of this campaign, that they are worthless, ignore the fact the legal guarantees constitute an international agreement which will enter into force on the same day as the Lisbon Treaty.

“There is no getting away from the fact that these guarantees have substantially changed the dynamic of the referendum. The more that people who voted No have heard about them the more comfortable they are with switching their vote this time,” Mr Cowen said.

Asked if he was concerned that the Fás controversy would affect the outcome of the poll, Mr Cowen said: “I believe that the people of Ireland see this treaty next Friday as being about their future, it is not about a particular issue or controversy of the day, it’s about their future, and people want to look to the future.”