No complacency on Lisbon vote, Taoiseach insists

 

THE GOVERNMENT will not be “complacent” about the Lisbon Treaty referendum, despite recent opinion polls suggesting the public has a “favourable disposition”, Taoiseach Brian Cowen insisted.

Opening an EU Dáil debate, Mr Cowen confirmed the “timeline” for agreement on guarantees sought by the Government by June with a referendum in the autumn “before the end of term of the current commission”.

The Taoiseach also confirmed he had told EU Commission president José Manuel Barroso he would support his reappointment. “I believe he has displayed the right balance of leadership and consideration,” he said.

Opinion polls “may reflect greater recognition of the importance of the EU to Ireland in these economically challenging times, but I can assure the House that we will not be complacent”, he said.

Fine Gael leader Enda Kenny welcomed “the Libertas organisation’s decision to contest the European elections in Ireland” but he was concerned “about the manner in which this organisation has gone about registering itself as a European party”.

He queried the agreement of the Libertas founder to “personally pay back the loans of the Libertas organisation in Poland, contrary to Polish electoral law.”

Fine Gael foreign affairs spokesman Billy Timmins said TDs should not assume “that the next campaign will be fought on the same grounds as was the last one”. Those “who state they are pro-Europe but anti-Lisbon are opportunistic and do not know whether they are pro-Europe”.

Fine Gael European affairs spokeswoman Lucinda Creighton urged the Taoiseach “to reconsider the matter of justice and home affairs”, which was “too important for Ireland to opt out of”.

Labour European affairs spokesman Joe Costello said the Government “has already reneged on the commitment given to engage with the main Opposition parties in preparing the text of the legal guarantees”, and three months since the December summit “neither we nor the country is wiser about the Government’s intentions”.

Sinn Féin foreign affairs spokesman Aengus Ó Snodaigh said that “in light of the major changes that have taken place during the past six months, it is bizarre to listen to EU leaders trying to force through a treaty which was designed to deal with an entirely different economic and political environment”.

Minister of State for European Affairs Dick Roche said “information should flow but we are still working on texts”.