Households to get Lisbon postcard

 

A postcard briefly explaining the legal guarantees secured by the Government in relation to the Lisbon Treaty is to be sent to every household in the State.

The move is part of a Government information campaign ahead of a controversial second referendum on the treaty planned for early October.

The guarantees in respect of taxation, neutrality and abortion were agreed at last month’s EU summit in Brussels and will be incorporated in a series of treaty protocols.

Some 1.9 million copies of the postcard containing five brief explanations of the guarantees, printed in both Irish and English, are due to be sent to households in the coming days.

A department spokeswoman confirmed the total cost of the "nationwide postcard drop" would be €220,000 which included design, printing and distribution costs.

Minister for Foreign Affairs Micheál Martin said the postcard was part of the Government's “determined effort” to ensure the public is adequately informed ahead of a second vote on the treaty.

Mr Martin said: “The Government has ensured that when the people vote on the Lisbon Treaty in October, it will come with new legally binding guarantees to address the concerns which emerged during the referendum campaign last year.”

“These guarantees will be legally binding from the same date as the Lisbon Treaty and will later be attached to the EU Treaties as a protocol,” he said.

The Department of Foreign Affairs has had 1.9 million postcards printed for distribution in both Irish and English. They will also be available in audio-visual and Braille formats.

The 28th Amendment of the Constitution (Treaty of Lisbon) Bill, 2009 is due to be debated by the Dáil and Seanad later this week.

Fine Gael welcomed the Bill’s publication but the Labour Party claimed having just one day set aside to debate it in the Dail was not enough.

Joe Costello, European Affairs spokesman said: “It is unacceptable to deal with all stages of any Bill on a single day without giving time for debate, reflection and amendment.”

Anti-Lisbon campaign group Cóir today claimed the assurances on the treaty were worthless and had no legal basis.

Spokesman Richard Greene said: “This is the same bad treaty the people rejected last June. Nothing has changed and we’ll be asking all of our volunteers to oppose it as strongly as before.”

“The majority of people in this country are pro-life. That’s why we said no to Lisbon and that’s why we’ll say no again to any treaty which threatens our right as a sovereign people to protect our mother and our babies from the abortion industry.”

Former MEP and anti-Lisbon campaigner Patricia McKenna said the postcards were an abuse of taxpayers’ money.

“Taxpayers money, from both sides of the Lisbon debate, is being used to peddle Government spin that these guarantees will somehow change the treaty’s impact on Ireland,” Ms McKenna said.

“But this is legally impossible without changes to the actual text of the treaty or legally binding protocols attached to and ratified by all member states before the treaty comes into force.”

She said it was wrong for the Government to use taxpayers’ money to “hoodwink” the people.

The Peace and Neutrality Alliance also condemned the Government's spending on the postcards.

Roger Cole, Chair of PANA said: "The Minister [Mr Martin] . . . is now about to spend a massive amount of money sending postcards to all households telling them about protocols that do not exclude Ireland from paying for or involvement with the militarisation of the EU."

Additional reporting PA