EU is Ireland's best friend, says student group


EUROPE IS “the best friend Ireland ever had”, according to a new pro-Lisbon campaign group launched in Dublin yesterday.

Calling itself Generation Yes, the organisation of college students and graduates was armed with the slogan “EU – a safe harbour in the financial storm” aimed at encouraging Ireland’s youth to vote Yes in a future referendum on the treaty.

Using new media options like Twitter, Facebook, blogs, text messaging and its own website, the group says it will “outline really clear and understandable” explanations of the treaty and its benefits.

They plan to campaign on the streets, on campuses and to support other pro-treaty groups. Their press release highlights a Millward Brown IMS poll finding that of the 59 per cent of 25- to 34-year-olds who voted No last time, 42 per cent did so due to a “lack of knowledge or understanding”.

They also want the Government to “run the referendum over two days at the weekend” which would suit students better, according to campaign director Andrew Byrne, a former Trinity College students’ union president.

He said the campaign was “all just friends of ours” who were frustrated by the failure of politicians to properly explain the treaty the last time, or to campaign effectively, so they decided “we’ll do it ourselves”.

They recently started a Facebook page “and we have more than 800 members on that. I think Declan Ganley only has about 100,” he says of the Libertas anti-treaty campaigner.

“We’re a grassroots movement. We’re independent,” he insists, although he is a member of the Green Party. Hazel Nolan a UCC student and a member of the Labour Party, was involved with the Alliance for Europe in last year’s campaign.

“I think young people are taking it more seriously this time,” she says. Both insist they have no personal political ambition.

“I’m emigrating next year to America” says Mr Byrne, who will study in Chicago.

He stresses that Lisbon “is too important to leave it to the politicians” and he insists “we’re not funded by anybody”, although they are seeking funds through their website and “we’ll run table quizzes after the launch”. This campaign “is as genuine as it comes”, he says, estimating it will cost “a few thousand euro”.

About 20 young people attended the launch on Merrion Square, the boys wearing white T-shirts with the slogan “Yes, Yes, Yes”. Some of the girls wore pink T-shirts with the legend: “I only kiss boys who say Yes”, while other campaign members refused to wear the “chauvinistic” shirts. The T-shirt legend is meant to be humorous and to show “we’re not taking ourselves too seriously,” says the campaign director, but he concedes it may change.