Ganley wants to run in all EU states
DECLAN GANLEY launched Libertas as a pan-European party yesterday with an ambition to run candidates in all 27 EU states and turn next year's European elections into a referendum on the Lisbon Treaty.
"This is the only chance for a referendum . . . you may never have that opportunity again," he told European journalists, who crowded into Libertas's plush new European HQ in Brussels, located just a few hundred metres from the European Commission.
"The Irish Government and the powerful elite in Brussels are showing utter contempt for the democratic decision of the Irish people in rejecting the Lisbon Treaty . . . It's time to put a stop to this bullying," said Mr Ganley, who made his presentation standing in front of two EU flags and the 27 flags of each member state.
He said it would be best to run candidates in all EU states but conceded that the party's candidate list had not yet been agreed. He asked for volunteers across the EU to come forward. On the question of his own candidacy, he said: "I'd like to; I haven't made the decision yet. This is not about me."
Mr Ganley said Libertas was a pro-European party that would offer electorates the chance to vote for a more democratic Europe. He said the Lisbon treaty, which had already been rejected by Irish, Dutch and French voters, would only enhance Euroscepticism across the union.
"This is a Brussels that has no ears," said Mr Ganley, who accused political elites in Europe - specifically naming Green MEP Daniel Cohn-Bendit and European parliament president Hans Gert Pöttering - of attacking Libertas erroneously over how it was funded.
"This is a distraction and an attack on the messenger . . . they are trying to deny the people of Europe the chance to listen to reason and a moderate voice," he added.
Mr Ganley said Libertas had complied fully with the laws in Ireland during the referendum campaign in June and noted that the party would be seeking donations from citizens across Europe with a value from one euro up to €12,000. Fundraising would be modelled on the way US president-elect Barack Obama had raised money during his campaign and people would be able to donate money on the group's website.
Mr Ganley stressed that the main purpose of Libertas was to highlight the lack of democracy and accountability in the EU. But he struggled to communicate other elements of the party's political programme. He said he was not particularly enamoured of the policy of neutrality and that Libertas was a centrist, moderate organisation that would include members from the centre-left and centre-right. A full manifesto would be published in spring after a first party congress.
Mr Ganley refused to name the countries where Libertas had already managed to secure candidates. But one member of the French party Movement for France at the event yesterday said they were considering running up to 72 candidates under the Libertas banner. A new party is being set up in the Czech Republic which will partner with Libertas, and there are already concrete plans to run candidates in Britain.
Yesterday UK Independence party leader Nigel Farage said there was "absolutely no common ground" between Libertas and his party. He said: "Libertas has nailed its colours firmly to the David Cameron mast of wishing to stay within the EU to try to reform from inside.
"Declan got one thing right - they didn't listen to the Dutch, they didn't listen to the French and they're not listening to the Irish over reform. So why do he and Cameron think they'll listen to them?"