Gen Yes launches Lisbon campaign


Ireland’s latest pro-Lisbon treaty campaign group was launched in Dublin today with the slogan ‘EU – a safe haven in the financial storm’.

Generation Yes describes itself as the digital generation of Irish voters and will use new media such as social networking sites like Facebook, Twitter, blogs, text messaging and its own website to explain the treaty and the reasons young voters should accept the Lisbon treaty in the next referendum, now most likely in the autumn.

Andrew Byrne, the campaign group’s director and a former president of Trinity College students’ union, says “the EU is the best friend Ireland ever had” and “particularly in these worrying times”.

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.

The group is focusing on young voters especially, noting a poll finding last September by Millward Brown IMS that 59 per cent of 25-34 year-olds voted No in the June 2008 referendum, 42 per cent citing a “lack of knowledge or understanding” as the reason for doing so.

Generation Yes plans to campaign on the streets, in college campuses and to support other pro-treaty campaign groups, and to use new media to give clear and understandable explanations of the treaty’s provisions and its benefits.

A politics and history graduate, the campaign director says the Treaty “draws a line in the sand” and for the first time defines exactly what the EU’s powers, provisions and laws are. It gives the European parliament more power he says, as well as giving more authority to the Council of leaders to instruct the Commission as what proposals member states want implemented.

The group wants the Government to “run the referendum over two days at the weekend” when students in particular would be more likely to vote.

Mr Byrne, a member of the Green party, says the campaign is “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”. He noted that they recently started a Facebook page and have more than 800 members. “I think Declan Ganley only has about 100” he says of the Libertas anti-treaty campaigner.

He insists “we’re not funded by anybody”, though 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”.

The main organisers include Hazel Nolan, a student of Government at UCC and a member of the Labour party; Bart Storan, president of Trinity College’s St Vincent de Paul society and Clare Tighe, former Trinity students’ union communications officer, who is scripting some of the group’s treaty explanations.