Labour seeks to secure Ireland's role in Europe


Labour Party delegates at the party’s national conference had expressed disappointment at the outcome of the Lisbon Treaty referendum and said the party should seek to ensure that Ireland remains at the heart of Europe.

A motion on the matter was passed unanimously at the conference in Kilkenny.

Labour’s foreign affairs spokesman Joe Costello told delegates he had spent three to four days a week discussing the “intractable” issue of the treaty with 11 other members of the Oireachtas Committee on European Affairs before the publication of its report last week.

“The report that we launched on Thursday is an attempt to address the stalemate in which Ireland and the other EU Member States find themselves now in the aftermath of the Lisbon Referendum and in the middle of a global financial crisis,” he said.

Mr Costello said the party had articulated a bottom line in relation to two issues.

These were, firstly, that the Charter of Fundamental Rights was not negotiable.

Secondly, the party was determined to find a way forward to ensure that recent decisions of the European Court of Justice that appeared to privilege the single-market over the rights of workers would not be possible in future.

“It now remains for the Government to use the information, analysis and options in this Report to begin the process of breaking the stalemate and finding a way forward with our EU partners the vast majority of whom are anxious to assist,” he said.

Mr Costello said the Labour Party would work closely with its parliamentary colleagues in the EU to “keep Ireland and Ireland's interests at the heart of Europe”.

The conference also unanimously passed a motion expressing disappointment at “attempts by the present Government to use budgetary cutbacks to undermine the effectiveness and independence of human and civil rights organisations by slashing their funding or incorporating them into Government Departments”.

The motion called on the Government to reverse these cutbacks immediately.

Mr Costello said the Government was attempting to “muzzle” bodies such as the Human Rights Commission and the Equality Authority by integrating their administration and other facilities.

“The proper way forward would be to take them away from the Department of Justice and make them independent and accountable directly to the Oireachtas,” he said.