Cowen rules out third referendum if treaty is rejected

FIANNA FAIL: A THIRD Lisbon referendum in the event that the treaty is again rejected when the people go to the polls tomorrow…

FIANNA FAIL:A THIRD Lisbon referendum in the event that the treaty is again rejected when the people go to the polls tomorrow has been ruled out by Taoiseach Brian Cowen.

Asked if there was a “Plan B” in case there was a second No vote, Mr Cowen said: “Well, there won’t be a Lisbon III, that’s for sure.”

At the last Fianna Fáil press conference of the campaign he said: “I think what’s clear is that we’d face into a period of extraordinary uncertainty in Europe and for Europe, and what direction it would then take.

“But at a time of major economic challenge what we need is stability and certainty in the direction which Europe is taking.

“This treaty as you know, represents a painstaking consensus that has been built up and negotiated over many years between 27 member states.”

Later, in an interview with RTÉ television, Mr Cowen also ruled out a general election in the aftermath of another No vote. “Absolutely not,” he told Six One News.

There was a strong international media presence at the press conference where the Taoiseach said that, every time Ireland had voted in favour of a European Union treaty, the country benefited as a result.

In a final appeal for a Yes vote, Mr Cowen said the EU had listened to the concerns underlying last year’s treaty rejection and the guarantees received as a result were “comprehensive” and “watertight”.

These guarantees would be lodged with the United Nations, thereby acquiring the same international standing as the Belfast Agreement concluded on Good Friday 1998. Claiming that the guarantees had “substantially changed the dynamic of the referendum”, the Taoiseach said a Yes vote would send 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. We have to face a clear choice on Friday . . . Will we move forward together with Europe or will we take an uncharted and more uncertain road?” he said.

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

“It is an irrefutable fact that every time Ireland has voted to support the development of the EU, our country has . . . thrived through our engagement with the European Union.”

Asked if he was concerned that the Fás controversy would affect the Yes vote, Mr Cowen replied: “I believe that the people of Ireland see this treaty next Friday as being about their future . . . and people want to look to the future.”