ICMSA to recommend Yes on Lisbon Treaty


The Government’s Lisbon Treaty campaign received a boost today when a major farming organisation rowed in behind the Yes vote.

After a meeting with Taoiseach Brian Cowen in Tullamore, the Irish Creamery Milk Suppliers' Association (ICMSA) declared that it would support the Treaty.

At the meeting, Mr Cowen emphasised that the imbalance in the current World Trade Organisation (WTO) proposals makes them unacceptable to Ireland and others.

He told ICMSA president Jackie Cahill that the Government’s position is that for any WTO agreement to be acceptable to Ireland it must be balanced and not undermine Irish agricultural interests.

The Taoiseach said Minister for Foreign Affairs, Micheál Martin and Minister for Agriculture Brendan Smith had both expressed the Government’s concerns in relation to the WTO proposals at respective meetings of the EU foreign ministers and at the Council of Agriculture ministers.

He said in the light of the stance adopted by the United States and others, the prospect of a WTO ministerial meeting being held at this time was uncertain, and the prospect of agreement was unlikely.

Mr Cahill said that in light of the Taoiseach’s assurances he would inform his 40,000 members that it was in their best interests to vote Yes.

Mr Cowen said that Ireland’s consent is required for EU approval of the outcome of the current WTO talks and that Ireland can block agreement to any unacceptable deal emerging. He insisted that the Lisbon Treaty would not change these arrangements or the existence of the veto.

The Taoiseach stated that ratifying the Treaty is essential to provide the best basis to negotiate and defend Ireland’s agricultural interests at EU level.

But a spokesman for the Irish Farmers' Association (IFA) said the ICMSA appears to have bought an empty promise, as there are no figures and no details in the deal with the Taoiseach.

"This is obviously a cynical manoeuvre by the Government to divide farmers in the run-up to the referendum and the WTO negotiations in Geneva," he added. The IFA executive council meets on Tuesday to adopt its position.

The president of the Irish Co-operative Organisation Society (ICOS), Padraig Gibbons, repeated the ICOS support for a Yes vote on the Lisbon Treaty Referendum.

"It is the ICOS view that voting against the Lisbon Treaty will not benefit the agri-sector in Ireland. The CAP can be best defended by a country which is fully engaged and committed to the European process," he said.

Fine Gael agriculture spokesman Michael Creed TD welcomed the ICMSA move but said it was "well past time" the Government confirmed it would use its veto if the current WTO proposals remain unchanged.

He said the Taoiseach's assurances the Government would not accept a bad deal for Irish agriculture did not go far enough.

The Irish Alliance for Europe also welcomed the ICMSA decision. Ken Curtin, Munster campaign co-ordinator, said: “There is now a real momentum in rural Ireland in favour of a Yes vote and hopefully this momentum can continue right up until polling day."