Cullen may join Yes side in Lisbon rerun


BUSINESSMAN BILL Cullen has offered to join the campaign for a Yes vote in the event of a new referendum on the Lisbon Treaty.

Speaking at the Oireachtas Subcommittee on Ireland's Future in Europe, Mr Cullen said the people who were charged with putting forward the Yes side had let the country down.

The subcommittee was set up to examine the result of the Lisbon Treaty referendum and to suggest ways forward for Ireland in the aftermath of the No vote.

Mr Cullen said he used to sell cars, "but you don't sell any more, you help people to buy".

"We didn't help the people of Ireland to buy into Europe."

He said Ireland had come through tough times with the help of Europe.

Asked by Fine Gael TD Billy Timmins and Green Party Senator Deirdre de Búrca if he would be willing to tell people about Europe, he said there was a lot of political talent, but he would be prepared to get involved.

Fianna Fáil TD Beverley Flynn said if Barack Obama could use Bruce Springsteen in his campaign, there was no reason why the Yes campaign could not use celebrities.

Broadcaster George Hook said politicians lacked credibility. People needed to realise that if Ireland had not joined the EU, they might now live in a country where they'd travel with asses and carts to the crossroads to watch comely maidens dancing.

He suggested personalities, including himself and Eamon Dunphy, should be asked to communicate the message of Europe.

Prof Richard Aldous, head of history and archives at UCD, said the message put out by the Yes campaign was never going to engender any kind of enthusiasm.

He said the campaign lacked a "strategic supremo" and suggested that if the referendum was rerun, a PJ Mara-type figure should be drafted in to co-ordinate it.

He also said the political establishment made a mistake when they personally attacked Libertas leader Declan Ganley. "You allowed Declan Ganley very skilfully to play the role of the plucky insurgent," he said.

Broadcaster Eamon Dunphy said Mr Ganley "hadn't got a whiff of anything off him" as far as he could see. "And I can see a CIA man from 50 yards," he said.

He said he voted No to the treaty because he wouldn't sign a contract he didn't understand. He also said he would not be too enamoured of celebrity involvement in any campaign.

Shane Molloy, chairman of the European Movement, said the key task was to develop a new definition and vision of Europe. And European Parliament representative Francis Jacobs said it was important to clarify which issues were matters of direct EU competence because Europe sometimes got the blame for what was essentially a national decision.