Lisbon Treaty referendum to be held on October 2nd


The second referendum on the Lisbon Treaty is to be held on Friday, October 2nd, Taoiseach Brian Cowen told the Dáil today.

Mr Cowen said legal guarantees granted over Irish concerns about the EU reform package paved the way for a new poll. “On that basis, I recommended to the Government that we return to the people to seek their approval for Ireland to ratify the treaty,” he said.

“That referendum will take place on October 2nd.”

Fine Gael leader Enda Kenny, whose party supports the treaty said: "I would not underestimate the strength of the feeling of confusion that is out there.

"I am not in any way led by opinions poll at this stage which indicate this is just an exercise to be gone through," Mr Kenny said.

Minister for Foreign Affairs Micheál Martin said at a press conference today that the treaty is in the best interests of the country, as he published a guide to the document.

“The government believes that this treaty is good for Ireland and good for Europe,” he said. “Our task now is to bring our case before the people.”

The vote in October follows the rejection of the treaty by the electorate last year and the securing of guarantees on issues such as neutrality, taxation and ethics last month.

Employers’ body Ibec said ratifying the treaty was now more important than ever.

“The outcome of the next referendum will define Ireland's future relationship with Europe, and therefore with the world at large. A positive result is vital to ensure that Ireland remains a constructive partner in Europe and is an essential building block on the road to economic recovery,” according to Ibec director of European affairs Brendan Butler.

Mr Butler said “a very unhelpful question mark” hung over Ireland’s relationship with the EU at a time when hundreds of people were losing their jobs.

“The last year has taught us that our future success is inextricably linked to the ambitions and interests of our partners in Europe, and to the success of Europe in the wider world. The Lisbon Treaty streamlines decision-making, gives Europe a stronger voice on the world stage and gives European citizens a greater say. It is a good deal for Ireland, and a good deal for Europe," he added.

Fine Gael's spokeswoman on European affairs Lucinda Creighton welcomed the Taoiseach's announcement of a date for the referendum and said her party would be "campaigning strenuously" for a Yes vote.

"I welcome the announcement of the date for the Lisbon referendum, and look forward to an active, positive campaign from Fine Gael over the coming months. We have between now and the October 2nd to get out and engage with the people of Ireland, and Fine Gael will be campaigning strenuously for a Yes vote in the national interest."

Roger Cole of the Peace and Neutrality Alliance said Irish people were being forced to vote again on exactly the same treaty they rejected last year. He accused the Government of rushing the legislation through the Dáil with no time given to debate the issue.

“The protocol proposed by the Fianna Fáil government changes absolutely nothing. Article 6.1 of the Irish Constitution states: All power of government, legislative, executive and judicial, derive, under God, from the people, whose right it is to designate the rulers of the state and, in final appeal, to decide all questions of national policy, according to the requirements of the common good."

”Therefore it must be open to question the constitutionality of forcing the people to vote again on exactly the same treaty since they have already given their final decision," he said.

Mr Cole is calling for a No vote in the referendum.

Chairman of the People's Movement, an anti-Lisbon treaty group, and former MEP Patricia McKenna said the Lisbon treaty was “not about EU membership”.

“Whether we voted yes or no last time the economic crisis in Ireland would be the same,” she said.

She accused the Government of conspiring with other EU Leaders to get the treaty ratified without any changes.

"Apart from the right of each Member state to hold on to their Commissioner, agreed without altering the Lisbon Treaty, nothing has changed within the text of the Lisbon Treaty itself since the last vote. The Government should be honest with the voters and tell them the truth instead of using propaganda and scare tactics about being at the heart of Europe," she said.