Ireland can’t ‘close door’ to treaty change in EU, says Martin

State must be ‘open’ during debate on union’s future despite challenges of referendums

Taoiseach Micheál Martin  speaks with French president Emmanuel Macron  in Brussels in December. File photograph: Olivier Hoslet/AFP via Getty Images

Taoiseach Micheál Martin speaks with French president Emmanuel Macron in Brussels in December. File photograph: Olivier Hoslet/AFP via Getty Images

 

Ireland must be open to the idea of treaty change in the EU, Taoiseach Micheál Martin has said, a step that would require a referendum.

Mr Martin said that he had spoken to the leaders of the other Coalition parties and “all three leaders are clear that we have to open to potential treaty change”.

“I’ve made it clear that we have to be open to treaty change and we can’t close that door,” he said, “notwithstanding the challenges it presents”.

The EU is currently engaged in a debate on its future direction, which is likely to include discussions on treaty change. The Irish Government has been reluctant to consider treaty change, owing in part of the experience of European referendums on the Lisbon and Nice treaties being initially defeated here.

However, Mr Martin was clear today that the option is not off the table.

Mr Martin was speaking at a virtual event organised by the Institute of International and European Affairs (IIEA), a Dublin think-tank.

In his speech, Mr Martin called for greater EU powers in the areas of public health and climate change.

“I believe that the terrible pandemic which we have experienced over the past 14 months has again shown how countries need each other,” he said. “And I believe that the case for significantly increasing the public health competencies of the European Union is stronger than it has ever been.

“A stronger European Centre for Disease Control is needed as an essential guidance for countries in reacting rapidly to developments and guiding critical common decisions. We have to make the decision-making procedures faster and more comprehensive,” Mr Martin said.

He said that “co-operation on vaccine ordering and manufacturing” had been a “tremendous success for the European Union”.

He said that Ireland and nearly every other EU country “could have had no guarantee of access to these vaccines outside of the EU-led co-operation”.

Mr Martin also criticised “a significant proportion of our representation in the European Parliament” which he said “constantly attacks the union as an elite conspiracy against the people”.

“Parties who opposed Irish membership of the union, who fought against every treaty change and blame the union for everything have an agenda which is shared with anti-EU parties throughout Europe, ” he said.

“We have to call out those who promote populist attacks on the union but pretend that they aren’t actually anti-EU,” Mr Martin said.