Promise to hold second ballot on EU treaty


The Programme for Government contains an explicit commitment to a second referendum on the Nice Treaty on enlargement of the EU, to be held before the end of the year.

The treaty will be submitted to a referendum "in a way which seeks to address the concerns of the people as expressed during previous referendums and in the National Forum on Europe," according to the programme. The Government's proposal will be "based on the mandate conferred on both parties in the General Election".

"We believe that commitment to the EU and its development in no way implies support for a European superstate or for an ambitious federalist project which is detached from public opinion," the programme states.

"We believe that the broad institutional balance, as it currently exists, serves the Union well. We will oppose efforts to have integration supplanted by purely inter-governmental co-operation, or important common policies, such as the Common Agricultural Policy or regional and social policy, extensively re-nationalised."

The document emphasised the "enormous importance and benefit" accruing from Ireland's membership of the EU. The Union "remains vital to our prosperity".

"Any perception, either within the Union or outside, that Ireland was other than a fully committed member would be deeply damaging both to our ability to promote our interests in the Union and to our economic development. We have no doubt that there is no alternative to being a fully engaged member of the EU."

There was now a "historic opportunity" to end the political division of Europe. "We in Ireland, having ourselves benefited so much from membership, have a moral duty to offer others the chance we ourselves were given a generation ago."

The Government's plan to have the Nice Treaty passed at the second attempt is likely to face determined opposition. Mr Anthony Coughlan, secretary of the National Platform, last night described the proposal as "undemocratic and constitutionally suspect" and vowed to campaign strongly against it.