Second Lisbon referendum needed - Roche


A SECOND referendum on the Lisbon Treaty would “ultimately” be required and ratifying key elements by legislation was not a viable option, Minister of State for European Affairs Dick Roche said at the weekend.

Stressing that this was a personal view “at this stage”, he said: “I cannot see how key elements in the treaty could be given effect simply by legislation – particularly as we have already held a referendum on the whole treaty.”

Mr Roche, who was a guest speaker at the Humbert School in Killala and Ballina, Co Mayo, said he was “disappointed” that Fine Gael and Labour had not agreed to the Government’s proposal for a cross-party parliamentary commission to review the outcome of the referendum.

Such a commission would “within a very short and pre- specified period” carry out its work and make a report to both Houses. “Hopefully this matter can be revisited in the days and weeks ahead.”

Mr Roche’s views on a second referendum were at odds with the position taken by Fianna Fáil backbencher and former minister Mary O’Rourke, who had told the Humbert school earlier that “no matter what way it is dressed up or undressed, another referendum is not going to work”.

Prominent anti-Lisbon campaigner Joe Noonan told the school that “attempting or purporting to ratify the Lisbon Treaty by the Oireachtas would be illegitimate and would precipitate a constitutional crisis”.

Holding a second referendum on Lisbon, no matter how many declarations were attached, “would be an unprecedented breach of faith with the citizens of Ireland of a most egregious nature,” Mr Noonan said.

Former senior diplomat Noel Dorr said he did not think a legislative solution was possible, now that the referendum had taken place. “The wording put to the people on the June 12th said, among other things, ‘The State may ratify the Treaty of Lisbon’; the people said no. If they say no and refuse to give permission to ratify, I don’t think the Government could now go ahead and ratify it, or bits of it. So I think that’s out.

“It might have been possible to ratify it without a referendum beforehand, I don’t know. It’s no longer possible once the people, the ultimate repository of sovereignty, have spoken,” Mr Dorr said.

Support for the legislative option came from Fine Gael Senator Eugene Regan, who pointed out that the Oireachtas was entitled to ratify an international treaty that did not interfere with or breach the Constitution.

“Accordingly, Lisbon, stripped of any potentially constitutional element not already covered by the licence of previous referendums, may be passed, and it is constitutionally proper that it should be passed, by the Oireachtas.

“Thus the Oireachtas could ratify Lisbon, subject to a number of opt-outs if necessary. Those opt-outs would cover those elements of Lisbon which legal experts determine may raise constitutional issues and may have to be put to the Irish people.

“Such issues may include, for example, the Charter of Fundamental Rights, the solidarity clause, transfer of certain matters to qualified majority voting, and the inclusion of new competences such as energy security, climate change and tourism.

“Those questions would be put as specific and separate questions to the Irish people for their approval.

“If approval was not forthcoming on these specific questions then the Oireachtas would seek to exercise opt-outs in those areas and could proceed to ratify Lisbon without those elements forming part of the treaty being ratified by Ireland,” according to Senator Regan.