Lisbon Treaty referendum

 

Madam, – The contrast between the punchy slogans of Gerry Adams and the compelling logic of Noel Dorr (both in Opinion, September 28th) speaks volumes. In rhetorical terms, it is simply easier to undermine the case for the Lisbon Treaty than to defend it beyond reasonable doubt.

Mr Dorr is correct to point out that the legal status of the EU Charter of Fundamental Rights is enhanced by the Lisbon Treaty. In substantive terms, the charter represents a real and meaningful advance on earlier human rights instruments such as the European Convention on Human Rights 1950 and, significantly, takes economic, social and cultural rights seriously.

It is ironic, in an almost poetic sense, that the leader of Sinn Féin seems incapable of acknowledging this, given his party’s professed support for rights and equality on this island. But this is nothing when compared to the irony of the Sinn Féin position that ignores the inevitable reversion to increased economic and political dependence on the United Kingdom that will result from a second rejection of Lisbon. They must not be speaking openly with their campaigning bedfellows in UKIP! – Yours, etc,

DONNCHA O’CONNELL,

Visiting Fellow,

Centre for the Study of Human

Rights,

London School of Economics

Political Science (LSE),

London, England.

Madam, – Since I often travel between Ireland and the Continent, I feel qualified to judge the mood in Europe concerning our Lisbon referendum. Wherever I go, in France for example, I find we Irish are admired and respected, but the current lunacy is leaving our friends baffled. Do we want to lose this long-desired relationship with Europe? This time, Sinn Féin has really got it wrong: dissatisfaction with local politics should not blind us to the larger picture, or render us mean-spirited. Cathleen Ní Houlihan should not become a wallflower again! – Yours, etc,

JOHN MONTAGUE,

Ballydehob,

Co Cork.

A chara, – Jamie Smyth’s article (September 19th) on Lisbon’s double majority voting system is very illuminating. However, it contains a myth repeated so often by Declan Ganley, Anthony Coughlan and others that it now seems to be taken as a fact: that Lisbon would reduce Ireland’s voting weight in Europe from 2 per cent to 0.8 per cent. The 0.8 per cent figure corresponds to Ireland’s population share, but not its voting weight.

The new double majority rule requires that an action be supported by a majority (55 per cent) of states that represent a majority (65 per cent) of the EU population. This rule involves a “country” criterion that weighs all states equally and a “population” criterion that gives more weight to bigger countries. If only the country criterion were used, Ireland’s voting weight would be one in 27 or about 3.7 per cent; if only the population criterion were used, Ireland’s weight would be 0.8 per cent. But both are used and so Ireland’s weight lies somewhere between these two extremes.

In fact, analysis of the rule using one of the most common measures of voting power (the Banzhaf index) shows that Lisbon places approximately 41 per cent of the weight on the country criterion and 59 per cent on the population criterion; this gives Ireland an overall voting weight of 2 per cent. So once you take account of both criteria you find that Ireland’s weight is virtually unchanged by Lisbon.

What the Lisbon rules do change for Ireland is how easily the EU as a whole can make decisions: under Nice rules only about 2 per cent of all possible coalitions of countries could pass a law; this jumps to 13 per cent under Lisbon. So what is really at stake is not how much power we would have but what type of power we want: the power simply to make sure that things stay much as they are or the power to improve them. – Is mise,

MACARTAN HUMPHREYS,

Associate Professor of Political

Science,

Columbia University,

New York, US.

Madam, – Let’s cut to the chase here. We vote Yes to Lisbon, fold up the Constitution, dismiss those wasters in Leinster House, and apply for direct rule from Europe. We may not like them in Brussels, but could they make matters any worse? – Yours, etc,

ART O LAOGHAIRE,

Kilbride Grove,

Bray,

Co Wicklow.

Madam, – It is sickening the way the Yes to Lisbon camp crawl with begging bowl to the big EU states. It would be the other way round if we but stood up for ourselves!

We have a magnificently wealthy 200-mile economic zone around us, though our fisheries are plundered by the EU. Our neutrality remains highly respected at the United Nations and around the globe. Above all militarily we have a vital strategic position commanding the western approaches to Europe.

We have said No once, let the EU now come begging to us, let them alter the real terms of the this greed-based treaty, rather than throw us a few unenforceable protocols. – Yours, etc,

JIM DIXON,

Ballincollig,

Co Cork.

Madam, – Dr David Honan (September 26th) claims that the wording for Friday’s referendum will emasculate our Constitution, rendering it subservient to the EU. Dr Honan omits to mention that the wording to which he objects is, save for the addition of the words “Treaty of Lisbon,” the same as was inserted into the Constitution in 1972. Ireland and the other member-states have assigned certain areas of responsibility to the EC and the EU. Within those areas, the law of the EC and EU is supreme. It would be impossible for the EC and EU to function as we expect if this were not the case. Nothing in the Lisbon Treaty changes this.

Too much of the Yes campaign has involved debunking such misunderstandings rather than providing people with reasons to vote yes. One positive aspect of the treaty has received little attention in the debate. Member-states must comply with the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR) and, if applicable, bills of rights in their own constitutions. However, the EC/EU institutions have not been subject to any written human rights guarantee. Lisbon’s effective incorporation of the Charter of Fundamental Rights and the proposal that the EU itself sign up to the ECHR both address this situation. If Lisbon enters into force, fundamental disputes about European law will be resolved by reference to human rights provisions and not just the criterion of market efficiency that has tended to guide the European Court of Justice in the past. A further reason to vote Yes. – Yours, etc,

ORAN DOYLE,

Law School,

Trinity College,

Dublin 2.

Madam, – In debate on the Lisbon Treaty, any references to the Charter of Fundamental Rights has been limited to the area of workers’ rights and of certain social matters.

The charter, as legally binding as any other part of the treaty, is much more far-reaching than that. We see it as a blank cheque, open to whatever interpretation the European Court of Justice gives it and possibly with major consequences for immigration.

Take Article 18 which confirms the “right to asylum”. Malta, for example, is suffering from a wave of African “asylum seekers” since it joined the EU. It, Spain and Italy have been screaming for “burden-sharing”, ie, the sharing out of these asylum seekers with other EU countries. It is unfair, they say, that they are on the frontline with Africa.

It is far from inconceivable that the ECJ could in future say: the imposition of a right to asylum on a member-state cannot be unreasonable and must be accompanied by a duty of all states to share the burden.

They would, of course, say it is up to each state to process the applications and only accept the genuine minority of applicants. That is poor consolation in practice, as the removal of failed applicants is largely unsuccessful everywhere. Do we want to see ourselves pushed back to the situation of 2002 when we received 11,634 applicants for asylum? Our own government did not originally wish to see this charter legally binding. The social partners, trade unions particularly, forced them into it. They should have opted out of it as Britain and Poland did. – Yours, etc,

ÁINE Ní CHONAILL,

Public Relations Officer ,

Immigration Control Platform,

PO Box 6469, Dublin 2.

Madam, – May Blood et al (September 26th) say a great deal about how much the EU has helped this country. This will be relevant if we ever have a referendum on EU membership. They state without any supporting argument their belief that a Yes vote is the best way to improve relationships between the various parts of these islands. They state that a No vote would damage our reputation; that it would “destabilise our common membership” of the EU; and that it would bring Ireland’s continued membership into “unknown territory”. They fail in each case to say how or why.

Surely 16 intelligent people can come up with better than this. – Yours, etc,

DÓNALL Ó MEARÁIN,

Bundoran,

Co Donegal.