19 May 2005 Edition
Sinn Féin launches EU referendum campaign
Sinn Féin President Gerry Adams has called on Irish voters to reject the proposed EU Constitution in forthcoming referenda, which are expected to take place North and South in 2005 and 2006. Speaking at a press conference to launch the party's campaign for a No vote, he called on the Taoiseach to publish the government's proposals immediately and to put the referendum to the people this autumn.
"On Saturday 28 and Sunday 29 May, Sinn Féin will be hosting a major conference in Dublin, with speakers from across Europe on the consequences of the proposed EU Constitution," said Adams. "We believe that the proposed EU Constitution is not in the interests of the people of Ireland.
"Sinn Féin will be vigorously opposing the Constitution in the two referenda which are expected to take place in the South in 2005 and in the North in 2006. This is the first time that people in the North will have a say. We urge all sections of public opinion, particularly those in trade unions, community organisations, human rights groups as well as supporters of other political parties to join with us in opposing this Constitution.
"I am calling on the government to publish their referendum proposals as quickly as possible and to put the referendum to the people this autumn.
The Taoiseach has said that he wants a 'focused, balanced and serious debate based on the facts'. He now needs to set out how that debate will take place. People have different views regarding the future direction of the EU and that needs to be reflected and the serious inadequacies of the Referendum Commission need to be immediately addressed. I am also calling on the government to respect the decision of the electorate.
"The debate on the EU Constitution is not between pro- and anti-Europeans. It is a debate over different visions for the future of the EU.
"Sinn Féin wants to see an EU that promotes sustainable growth, environmental protection, social and economic equality, human rights and global justice. Since last year's EU elections, Sinn Féin has been to the forefront of the ongoing campaigns for an alternative vision of the EU which is democratic, accountable and which operates in the interests of ordinary people."
A Europe of equals, not a federal superstate
Sinn Féin Dublin MEP Mary Lou McDonald set out in detail, in a lengthy document published by the party, titled Ireland & the EU Constitution, the reasons why Sinn Féin is opposing the proposed EU Constitution. She called for the public debate on the Constitution to begin now.
"The proposed EU Constitution is one of the most significant social, political, economic and constitutional issues facing Ireland and the other EU member states today," she said. "The Constitution sets out to transform the EU from a body of cooperating member states into an embryonic federal state, with its own legally binding constitution.
"It deepens the democratic deficit, further concentrating power in the hands of the few at the expense of national parliaments and ordinary people. It undermines Irish neutrality, and seeks to transform the EU into a global superpower, with its own Foreign Minister, army and armaments agency. It copperfastens the right wing economic agenda, which has dominated EU policy for over a decade, and seeks to extend such policies to public services and international trade agreements, undermining welfare provision and global justice priorities.
"It offers no new or meaningful social or human rights protections to citizens of member states, yet it significantly increases the power and scope for undemocratic bodies such as the EU Commission and Council, in crucial areas of policy such as International Relations, defence, criminal justice, trade, and the internal market.
"We believe that this will be a critical referendum for everyone on this island. It has huge implications for our collective future and the debate needs to start now."
Planning the campaign
Dublin Councillor and Sinn Féin representative on the National Forum on Europe, Daithí Doolan, talked about the party's plans for the campaign, promising a "positive, proactive campaign promoting alternatives". He said the party wants to work with other interested groups to build a broad coalition against the proposed Constitution. He said the ongoing referendum campaign in France is too close to call, while in the Netherlands the No campaigners appear at this stage to be ahead and reminded those present that he Constitution falls if even one EU member state rejects it.
"It would be wholly unacceptable for any government to go back for a second bite of the cherry, as happened here with the Nice referendum," he said. "Where the people speak it is incumbent on government to respect that."