Voters being 'threatened' on Lisbon


The Irish electorate is being “threatened, cajoled and lied to” in relation to the Lisbon Treaty, a group calling for a No vote in the second referendum has claimed.

The Vote No to Lisbon group, formerly the Campaign Against the EU Constitution, today opened its campaign calling for a rejection of the treaty on October 2nd.

It claimed ‘guarantees’ secured by the Government from the EU in relation to issues such as abortion and neutrality did not alter the treaty in any way and that voters were being asked to ballot on exactly the same document they rejected in a referendum last June.

Speakers at the group’s press conference in Dublin included recently elected MEP and Socialist Party leader Joe Higgins, Sinn Féin vice president and former MEP Mary Lou McDonald, and People Before Profit councillor Bríd Smith.

“These empty political promises do not alter Lisbon in any way,” the group said in a statement. “They merely restate what exists already, or is in Lisbon. At the meeting where they were agreed, the European Council declared the promised protocol would ‘clarify’, but not change, either the content or application of the Lisbon Treaty.”

Ratification of the treaty would, members of the group claimed, reinforce the “centrality of the market” to the detriment of public services. It would also ensure workers’ rights continued to take “second place” to those of “big business”, as enshrined in EU treaties and reinforced by the European Court of Justice.

Mr Higgins said the treaty was a “profoundly undemocratic” document and that it “enshrines as the norm the running of essential public services for profit, including health and education”.

He added: “If it is passed, the EU Commission would uphold the right of big business to profit from public services, over and above the rights of workers to take action to defend these services.

“Likewise, it would intervene to prevent even a mildly progressive government from investing to improve public services as this, in their view, ‘distorts the market’."

Mr Higgins rejected the claims of the treaty's supporters - including the Labour Party - that the inclusion of the Charter of Fundamental Rights into treaty law would improve workers’ rights. He said almost all the provisions of the charter were subject to “national laws and practices” which restrict workers rights.

The group noted EU trade unionists had called for the inclusion of a “social solidarity clause” in the treaty.

Ms McDonald said such a clause would ensure that “where the rights of the market come into conflict with the rights of workers, that the rights of the workers prevail”. She said the Government should be asked why it had not sought the inclusion of such a protocol.

On neutrality, the group rejected the Yes side’s contention that Ireland’s military neutrality is safeguarded under Lisbon and the ‘guarantees’, claiming the Government parties were helping to facilitate the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq.

“The Lisbon ‘promises’ restate that Ireland will not be forced into a formal military alliance. But this is subverted by the treaty’s commitment to further militarise the EU, all in the framework of the Common Foreign and Security Policy, to extend the ground for EU military interventions, and to build up European military industries through the European Defence Agency (EDA),” its campaign statement said.

Representatives of a number other groups on the left who are affiliated to the campaign were also at today’s launch. They included the Peace and Neutrality Alliance (Pana), the Irish Republican Socialist Party, Irish Friends of Palestine Against Lisbon and socialist republican group Eirigí.

The Lisbon Treaty was rejected in a referendum held on June 12th last year by 53.4 per cent to 46.6 per cent. The turnout was just over 53 per cent of eligible voters.