Yes vote on Lisbon could open door for abortion


OPINION:If you are against abortion, you should reject the treaty, writes RICHARD GREENE.

YOU MAY have received a missive from the Department of Foreign Affairs recently. A cute-looking postcard, it was paid for by your taxes and contained a serious plug for the Lisbon Treaty.

This sort of political propaganda should be illegal, since the 1995 McKenna judgment forbids government spending public money directly to achieve a particular result in a referendum, but, as we know, this Government has been known to bend the rules before, so perhaps we should expect more of the same in the coming months.

The postcard is written to persuade No to Lisbon voters that the treaty is changed utterly. The tone is meant to be reassuring, and in its very first paragraph the department makes a statement that brazenly dresses up a political promise as a legal certainty.

It states that “when the Irish people vote on the Lisbon Treaty later this year, it will come with additional legal guarantees and assurances to address their main concerns”. This is not the case, and the selling of the assurances obtained by the Government as legal guarantees which change the Lisbon Treaty, is not only dishonest, but in this instance uses taxpayer funds to fool the taxpayer. This Lisbon Treaty will remain unchanged by any assurances obtained by the Government on any issue. Not a word or a comma will be altered. It is exactly the same treaty rejected last June by the Irish people.

Neither are these “guarantees” legally binding on the European Union – something the Government understands better than most, despite their insistence that lodging the assurances with the United Nations gives them some legal standing.

This fatuous notion caused journalist Vincent Browne to remark that they might as well be lodged with Leitrim County Council. That’s no disrespect to Leitrim County Council, it’s just that the UN has no jurisdiction to enforce EU guarantees – and the European Court of Justice does not have to consider any other law besides EU law. These guarantees are not part of any EU treaty (including the Lisbon Treaty), so cannot be considered EU law.

So the guarantees have no real legal effect. In fact, they are merely political promises – the sort that we know, from bitter experience, are broken daily.

But what of the future protocols promised by the EU – which may or may not be attached to a future treaty at some date? Several problems arise with this proposed means of securing our right to decide on abortion and other issues.

Firstly, when the Government says it promises to bring forward at some future date a protocol on, for example, abortion, that’s a promise we cannot hold them to. We don’t know the wording of these proposed protocols or whether they will ever actually come to pass.

Secondly, and more importantly, while such protocols would have legal standing, the same problem as before still arises (and is the reason why anti-abortion people voted No to Lisbon despite the Maastricht protocol). That problem is the Charter of Rights attached to the treaty which becomes legally binding on all EU member states if Lisbon is passed.

That charter, and the fact that we will be citizens of a new EU super state, will be the basis of a legal challenge to Ireland’s abortion laws which will surely be brought before the European Court of Justice. This court would have enormously enhanced powers to decide on social and moral issues, such as abortion, under the Lisbon Treaty.

This is the core of the problem. Any protocol on the right to life (or on family law) can come into conflict with the charter – and the European Court of Justice can use the charter to overrule the conflicting protocol and impose abortion on the Irish people.

In other words, the matter will still be in the hands of the European Court of Justice, not the Irish people, if the Lisbon Treaty is passed.

So we’re left with the same bad treaty that was rejected by the Irish people last year. And the scaremongering has started in earnest, as Yes campaigners try to use the recession to bully the Irish people into accepting this treaty.

At the recent launch of a Yes campaign, it was claimed that a No vote to Lisbon “discouraged investment from abroad”. But the opposite is the case. As reported in this newspaper, despite (or perhaps because of) our No vote to Lisbon the number of jobs created by foreign direct investment here actually increased by 56 per cent last year, according to a report published by Ernst Young.

The simple fact is that in these straitened times we can’t afford the Lisbon Treaty. It contains absolutely nothing that will assist us in restoring our economy and, in fact, could well damage us in the critical areas of jobs and taxes.

That’s because, according to leading economists such as Prof Ray Kinsella, the bigger EU member states will use the Lisbon Treaty to push for an end to Ireland’s low corporation tax rates. As everyone knows those low tax rates are what bring multinationals – and the jobs they provide – to Ireland. The treaty will also bolster EU court decisions which facilitate importing cheap labour from abroad to undercut Irish workers and drive down wages.

The treaty would also see Ireland’s voting power in making European law halved – to 0.8 per cent, while Germany’s doubles – to 17 per cent; hardly a good position for Ireland to be in when presenting concerns on unemployment, taxation or other economic issues.

To protect jobs, the economy and our right to decide, we should stand firm in saying No to Lisbon. We can’t afford to do otherwise.

Richard Greene is spokesman for Cóir –

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