Libertas and Lisbon groups in sharp exchanges as treaty debate intensifies

STREET CANVASS: SUPPORTERS OF Libertas and the pro-Lisbon group Ireland for Europe clashed in Dublin yesterday as the debate…

STREET CANVASS:SUPPORTERS OF Libertas and the pro-Lisbon group Ireland for Europe clashed in Dublin yesterday as the debate on the treaty gathered pace as it moved into its final week.

The groups exchanged views on Moore Street over what the consequences could be for the State if the treaty is ratified, or not, following the referendum.

The saga began outside Government Buildings on Merrion Square at 4pm, where Libertas had scheduled an event to publicise its new posters.

However, by 4.30pm a group

of Lisbon supporters, from the Ireland for Europe and Ógra Fianna Fáil groups, who were eager to challenge Mr Ganley on claims he had made about the treaty had gathered and Libertas was nowhere to be seen.

Moments later, a Libertas supporter announced the event was now taking place on Moore Street. Libertas spokesman John McGuirk said the decision to move the event was “to take them up to Moore Street so they could see some real people”.

At 5pm, Mr Ganley and his supporters had gathered next to the stall of an unimpressed flower vendor to unveil the posters, which said Lisbon was an attack on democracy and the only job it would save was Brian Cowen’s.

Shortly afterwards, the pro-treaty groups arrived with posters, eager to challenge Mr Ganley about his return to politics and his claims about the treaty.

Speaking in front of a sea of Libertas and Ireland for Europe posters, Mr Ganley, looking flustered, stood firm and challenged Taoiseach Brian Cowen to debate the treaty.

“Brian Cowen will not debate,” he said, as the noise from the pro-treaty campaigners intensified. “He sends out Michael O’Leary and some naive supporters to fight his battles for him . . . we’re trying to point out that this treaty is a disaster for the country.”

The heckles of “Declan, are you sorry you’re not in Brussels yourself”; “why did you come back? You’re a failed politician” grew louder, but he continued.

“They hold the Irish people in contempt. They have mismanaged this country. They are economic illiterates . . . ” The heckles continued and Mr Ganley again responded: “These are ridiculous arguments. You are being put forward here and I feel sorry for you . . . Your dream is to be a Fianna Fáil councillor.”

“Don’t feel sorry for us,” one of the pro-treaty supporters replied. “We’re here of our own volition. We love our country and Europe is good for Ireland.”

Shane Griffin of Ireland for Europe said he wanted to deliver to Mr Ganley a highlighted copy of the treaty, “but unfortunately he wouldn’t take it”.

Instead, Mr Ganley apologised to the flower vendor for the inconvenience and purchased a bunch of flowers, which he handed to a Libertas supporter before departing the scene.