Cox warns of impact of No vote


Ireland risks being used as a “Trojan horse” by external political and media forces in the Lisbon Treaty referendum, former European Parliament president Pat Cox has said.

Mr Cox referred to the British Conservative Party, newspapers owned by Rupert Murdoch and “anti-European non-Irish” media when he spoke at Ireland for Europe’s final press conference ahead of the vote on Friday. Mr Cox is director of the civil society group.

“It’s not in my view in Ireland’s interest or Europe’s interest for us to become the Trojan horse for outside forces, and there are many of them, political and media, who are seeking to influence our outcome in their end,” he said.

Mr Cox said opinion polls in Britain showed that the Conservative Party could win the next election. “Their preference would be to have others say No that they might later say No themselves.”

Referring to media outlets, he said: “Some of the anti-European non-Irish media, I think in particular but not only of the Murdoch press, have been used as clear vehicles for anti-EU sentiment.”

Mr Cox said he respected freedom of expression. “But let’s not be naive. There is here in all of these forces a sense of seeking to use Ireland as the Trojan horse to do the dirty work to do with British European debate that so far hasn’t actually happened in Britain itself,” he said.

“What we are saying is simply wake up, understand those forces are there and understand that Ireland’s values and interests will not be served by being used or instrumentalised by forces of that sort who have a different fish to fry than Ireland’s interest.”

Mr Cox said he presumed the No side felt the tide slipping away from it, and that was why he said it was focusing on the Taoiseach and the Government.

Asked to comment on the row over the funding of the rival campaigns, he said they were not unimportant but were a “sideshow” at this stage.

Mr Cox said the referendum result would be heard in every cabinet room of every partner state in Europe, as well as every boardroom of every company that invested here.

Ireland for Europe’s chairwoman Brigid Laffan said a No vote would make Ireland “the agent of the Conservatives”.

Prof Laffan said if the Conservatives won the next election in Britain they would “unleash a dynamic within the European Union that is not in the interests of this country”. Berlin and Paris would move to protect the EU and “if Ireland is the agent of this process” it would find itself in the lower tier of a two-tier Europe, she said.

Prof Laffan complimented the leaders of the main Opposition parties, Enda Kenny of Fine Gael and Labour’s Eamon Gilmore, for what she described as their statesmanlike behaviour during the campaign. She said it must have been very tempting for them to focus on the difficulties of the Government, but they had not done this. “We’re in their debt,” she said.

The organisation’s campaign co-ordinator Brendan Halligan said a Yes vote would result in the cost of borrowing stabilising or perhaps dropping. However, he insisted the economic consequences of a No vote would be “immediate, wholly negative and devastating”, with the cost of borrowing rising.

“Every additional one per cent on the cost of borrowing would impose an annual self-inflicted penalty of €250 million on the taxpayer. This penalty would be the equivalent of employing 5,000 nurses or teachers annually,” Mr Halligan said.

“This self-imposed penalty of extra interest payment on the exchequer could only be off-set by a combination of increased taxes or reduced expenditure or both,” he added. “It’s quite feasible that Ireland would again become an economic province of Britain.”