Opposing sides of Lisbon debate will debrief Sarkozy


FRENCH PRESIDENT Nicolas Sarkozy will hear the views of several groups that campaigned for or against the Lisbon Treaty this afternoon when he sits down with more than 15 invited guests for a round-table meeting at the French embassy in Dublin.

Last night the number of guests confirmed to attend the event stood at 17. A total of 21 people representing different political and civil society groups were invited to the meeting. Invitations were sent out late last week.

The guests include IFA president Padraig Walshe, Ibec director Turlough O'Sullivan, Ictu general secretary David Begg and former president of the European Parliament Pat Cox.

Members of the Oireachtas attending include Independent TD Finian McGrath, who campaigned against the Lisbon Treaty with the People's Movement, and Green Party Senator Deirdre de Burca. Independent Senator Shane Ross, who has written extensively about his reasons for voting against the treaty, has also been invited.

Sinn Féin MEP Mary Lou McDonald, whose party was the only Dáil party to oppose the treaty, received an invitation, but is on holiday abroad and unable to return for the meeting. Sinn Féin president Gerry Adams will attend in her place.

Those attending from the No camp include Libertas chairman Declan Ganley, former Green Party MEP Patricia McKenna, who played a leading role in the People's Movement campaign against the treaty, Richard Boyd-Barrett of the People Before Profit Alliance, and UCD academic Dr Andy Storey, who will represent development organisation Afri.

Veteran Eurosceptic Anthony Coughlan of National Platform received an invitation, but is unable to attend due to a prior engagement. Maurice Hayes, chairman of the National Forum on Europe, is also unable to attend.

Others on the guest list include former Fine Gael leader Alan Dukes, Prof Brigid Laffan of the Alliance for Europe, Gerard O'Flynn, chairman of the Federation of Irish Fishermen, Peadar Ó Broin, a researcher at the Irish Institute of European Affairs and author of a consolidated version of the Lisbon Treaty, and Eddie D'Arcy, president of the National Youth Council of Ireland.

The meeting, which is expected to begin shortly after 3pm, will be held in the main salon. Sitting around a table with the French president, each guest will present views on Ireland's rejection of the treaty in last month's referendum. The format is expected to be relatively informal, with Mr Sarkozy chairing the meeting himself.

"The main objective is to avoid a re-enactment of the campaign, and instead have people analyse the Irish vote and try to envisage a solution to the present situation," said a source.

An interpretation booth will be set up in the room to provide simultaneous translation. The meeting is expected to last between one hour and 90 minutes.

Also present will be 15-20 observers, including members of the French president's delegation. Minister for European Affairs Dick Roche will attend. No media will be present except for Mr Sarkozy's personal photographer.

Several prominent No campaigners and groups did not receive invitations to the meeting. Roger Cole from the Peace and Neutrality Alliance and Socialist Party leader Joe Higgins, both of whom had actively campaigned for a No vote in the June 12th referendum, last week complained that they had not been invited to meet with the French president at the embassy.

Cóir, a group which claimed Lisbon would lead to changes to Ireland's laws on abortion, euthanasia and prostitution, was not invited to send a representative to the meeting.

Spokesman Richard Greene said he wrote to French ambassador Yvon Roe d'Albert last week arguing that Mr Sarkozy's visit was an "insult" to Irish voters.

"Had we been invited we wouldn't have gone anyway," Mr Greene said last night. "We find this whole visit insulting. The debate has already taken place and the Irish people have spoken. The Irish vote should be respected, but instead Mr Sarkozy says he wants another referendum."

Independent Munster MEP Kathy Sinnott was another No campaigner not invited to the meeting. "I already had my say when I met Mr Sarkozy in Paris last month as part of a European Parliament delegation," she said.

"I told him he shouldn't listen to the Government or anyone else who [ had] said it would be a Yes vote . . . because they failed to see how people were feeling about the treaty. But he has already made up his mind anyway. He wants Lisbon and that's it."

Invitation list

Members of the Yes and No camp invited to the French embassy:

IFA president Padraig Walshe

Ibec director Turlough O'Sullivan

Ictu general secretary David Begg

Former president of the European Parliament Pat Cox

Independent TD Finian McGrath

Green Party Senator Deirdre de Burca

Independent Senator Shane Ross

Sinn Féin president Gerry Adams

Libertas chair Declan Ganley

Former Green Party MEP Patricia McKenna

Richard Boyd-Barrett of the People Before Profit Alliance

Dr Andy Storey from development organisation Afri

Former Fine Gael leader Alan Dukes

Prof Brigid Laffan of the Alliance for Europe

Chair of the Federation of Irish Fishermen Gerard O'Flynn

Peadar Ó Broin of the Irish Institute of European Affairs

President of the National Youth Council Eddie D'Arcy