Yes vote 'intrinsic to our interests' - Cowen


IT IS extreme political naivety to believe there would be no “political consequences or effect” to a No vote in the Lisbon Treaty referendum, Taoiseach Brian Cowen has insisted in the Dáil.

He told Sinn Féin Dáil leader Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin that “it flies in the face of political logic” to suggest a ‘No’ to the referendum in October would ensure that “goodwill will flow to Ireland” or that the State would “remain at the heart of the union”.

In impassioned responses to questions on last week’s European Council meeting, Mr Cowen said: “it’s time we had a debate about the sort of Ireland we want in Europe, not the sort of Europe we feel bests suits Ireland. It is being part of a larger entity that gives us the prospects of success, not standing alone on the outside, half in and half out.”

Mr Cowen also stressed that one of the “great benefits” of the EU council meeting was that it “puts to bed . . . the non-arguments that have dominated the debate” such as conscription. He sharply criticised No campaigners telling voters “we might be part of a European army, missus”. This was “coming from those who claimed to be part of a different army some other time”. Mr Ó Caoláin had challenged the Taoiseach about the forthcoming second referendum. He said “voting No to the Lisbon Treaty does not mean we are voting No to the EU” and did not mean “Ireland will be pushed out of the union”. He also said people would vote “on exactly the same treaty . . . without a single comma or full stop being changed in the text of the treaty”.

He referred to comments by Fine Gael leader Enda Kenny who said “there was never any intention of changing the Lisbon Treaty. People who voted No say there has been no change in the treaty but there was no intention of doing so. I never favoured the re-opening of the ratification process in other countries.”

Mr Ó Caoláin said it was the Government’s duty to follow through on the rejection of Lisbon “by setting it aside and entering the process of negotiation to come forward with a new and fresh document”. Mr Cowen said a No vote “has no effect on our continuing as members of the union as things stand” but “the idea that we make decisions that don’t have political consequences or effect is a most politically naïve view”.

He insisted “the treaty of Lisbon is not in force and will not come into force unless the Irish vote ‘Yes’. So the Irish people’s view is respected.” Nobody “could suggest that every aspect of the EU’s operation suits everybody. That is what compromise is about,” but it is “intrinsically in our national interest” to support Lisbon. Mr Cowen said “Ireland could not survive the current economic crisis without our membership of the euro zone and the availability of resources from the European Central Bank. That is a fact over the last 12 months.”