Roche's Lisbon comments draw criticism


Elements from both sides in the Lisbon referendum debate have criticised comments made by Minister for European Affairs Dick Roche on holding another vote on the issue.

Over the weekend, Mr Roche said a second referendum on the Lisbon Treaty would “ultimately” be required and that ratifying key elements by legislation was not a viable option.

Speaking this morning on Morning Ireland, the Minister defended what he said was his personal belief that a second Lisbon Treaty vote may be necessary, adding that Ireland needed to stay at the heart of the EU.

In a statement today, however, Patricia McKenna, chairwoman of the People’s Movement, said Mr Roche’s comments exposed the Government’s secret plans on Lisbon.

The former Green Party MEP said: “Minister Roche’s comments that a second Lisbon referendum was needed has confirmed the public’s fear that the Government . . . intends to re-run the Lisbon vote when the time is right and an effective pro-treaty marketing strategy has been put in place”.

“While the Government claims it will make no decision on this matter until after its detailed analysis of the referendum defeat has been completed and considered, it is clear that it intends using the findings of this research to present to the public with the same rejected treaty dressed up as something new.”

Ms McKenna continued: “Irish people must not allow our Government treat us with such contempt . . . our politicians must . . . respect their constitutional duty and obey the sovereign will of the voters.”

She also raised concern about the publicly funded referendum analysis, which she claimed was a “secret survey”.

“The Government is using taxpayers’ money to mount an extensive confidential poll to “clarify the reasons underlying the referendum result” but intend withholding the results from the public."

Fine Gael European Affairs Spokeswoman Lucinda Creighton also criticised Mr Roche for suggesting another vote must take place.

The Fine Gael TD said his comments "show that the Government has learned nothing from its disastrous referendum campaign. Another referendum on Lisbon, without any response to the concerns of the Irish people, would be rejected".

“Unfortunately, Dick Roche’s remarks smack of arrogance and an inability to recognise the sensitivity surrounding the Lisbon treaty," she continued.

“It is clear that the Irish people said ‘No’ and that verdict must respected. The Government must clearly make changes in order for any progress to be made. . . . The fundamental concerns of the Irish people cannot be brazenly ignored by Dick Roche, Brian Cowen or anyone else on the Government benches.

Joan Burton, deputy leader of the Labour Party, said the Minister's comments were "unwise and unhelpful".

"It is only three months since the Irish people voted to reject the treaty, and politicians have to respect the verdict of the electorate. There can be no question of simply putting the same proposition to the people once again," she said.

"There is no basis for believing that a second referendum would produce a different outcome to the one we got on June 12th. Indeed Minister Roche's comments may simply have the effect of driving even more people into the "No" camp."

Sinn Féin MEP Mary Lou McDonald also dismissed the Minister's remarks.

“Minister Roche’s comments are yet another example of a Government without a plan to tackle the political reality that the Lisbon Treaty is finished. There is no political crisis as Minister Roche has suggested.

"There is simply a political task to be dealt with. The Irish people, like the French and Dutch before them, have rejected this Treaty. A new deal now needs to be negotiated," she said.

Sinn Féin was the only party in the Dáil to campaign against Lisbon.

Libertas, the main organisation opposed to the treaty, said it would fight any bid to run a second referendum.

Naoise Nunn, Libertas executive director, said: “Dick Roche insisted during the campaign there would be no second referendum, that this was it and this was the choice the people had to make.

“I think it is very very clear that the people have said no and the Irish government needs to stand up to its European counterparts.”

Additional reporting PA