Wording of treaty poll is revised
The Government is expected to circulate a revised wording for the Amsterdam Treaty referendum to Opposition leaders today. However, the Taoiseach indicated to the Dail yesterday that legal advice from the Attorney General, Mr David Byrne, and a number of independent experts was that the controversial clause providing the Government with the discretion to exercise the options in the treaty was still required.
Despite pressure from Opposition leaders to change that clause, an addition to the amendment to ratify the Amsterdam Treaty, Mr Ahern signalled that the Government was not prepared to drop the "discretions and options" clause in its proposed wording.
There were suggestions in Government circles last night that some attempt would be made to qualify the nature of the options and discretions which could be pursued by the Government.
Following yesterday's Cabinet meeting, Mr Ahern told the Dail they had a wording. He was prepared to give the principles of the Government's legal advice to the Opposition. The difficulty they were trying to overcome, he continued, was that without a wording which dealt with various options, they could end up having frequent referendums.
He did not want a final position which dealt with this matter but required many referendums.
The Labour leader, Mr Ruairi Quinn, suggested the Taoiseach seemed to spurn the core of the concerns of the Opposition. There was nothing wrong with a referendum every time a further transfer of sovereignty was proposed "between this Republic and the European Union where such a constitutional amendment is required".
Mr Ahern said nobody was arguing that there should be a general clause where everything could be taken in. The intention was to ensure "the Amsterdam Treaty can be brought into being and dealt with in a proper legal way and not that any aspect of it which must be dealt with will require a constitutional referendum".