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24 April 2008 Edition

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Government's Lisbon scaremongering

More than 10,000 farmers took part in a protest march in Dublin against EU proposals on world trade

More than 10,000 farmers took part in a protest march in Dublin against EU proposals on world trade

AS MORE than 10,000 farmers took part in a protest march in Dublin city centre on Thursday, 17 April, against EU proposals in negotiations on world trade, Sinn Féin Agriculture spokeperson Martin Ferris TD said he was fully behind the protest and would discuss the implications which the Mandelson proposals will have when he met farmers in Cork that day.
“As I have said previously any move towards weakening the position of European farmers will represent a betrayal of the commitment made at the time of the 2003 reform of the Common Agricultural Policy. Farmers were told then that the reform package would represent the limit of what the EU was prepared to do in dismantling support mechanisms for farming as was being sought by other trading blocs through the WTO.
The farmers gathered at Leinster House and marched to Dublin Castle where European Commission President Jose Manuel Barosso was addressing the forum on Europe. Farmers from all parts of the country took part in the march and original turnout expectations were well exceeded.
Martin Ferris said the Commission’s stance also highlighted the fact that “the vital interests of a member state such as Ireland can be gravely damaged if it does not have the support of sufficient of the larger states. The implications of this are extremely serious especially at a time when the Lisbon Treaty proposes further diminution of national sovereignty over a wider range of areas”.
“The Lisbon Treaty, if passed, will give the European Commission ‘exclusive competence’ over international trade agreements and will make ‘the progressive abolition of restrictions on international trade’ a key aim of the EU. All decisions relating to international trade will thereafter be taken by a qualified majority giving larger states a bigger influence on decision making.
“The Lisbon Treaty will give the European Commission the power to accelerate current approach to international trade as exampled by Peter Mandelson and will remove the ability of the Irish Government to influence negotiations or block the outcome if it is not in our interest.
“Article 9 of the Treaty removes Ireland’s right to a European Commissioner for five out of every fifteen years so it is highly likely that we will not even have an Irish voice at the table when trade agreements are being negotiated on our behalf”, Ferris said.

GOVERNMENT SCARE TACTICS
Meanwhile, speaking in the Dáil this Tuesday Sinn Féin Group leader Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin TD called on the electorate to engage in the political debate over the Lisbon Treaty.
Urging voters to vote no in order to send the government back to the negotiating table to secure a better deal for Ireland, Ó Caoláin said that government after government representatives and others on the ‘Yes’ side, have repeatedly tried to promote the “scare story” that a rejection of Lisbon will see us “turned into the dunces of the EU class who will be put standing in the corner or, worse still, expelled altogether”. He said that Minister Dermot Ahern and Minister of State Dick Roche have specialised in this line.
“France and the Netherlands rejected the EU Constitution in 2005. They didn’t lose influence or standing in the EU and nor would this State if we did likewise. The purpose of a referendum is for the citizens of a member state to freely and democratically decide on the matter at hand. As democrats we must all, including our EU partners, respect the outcome of the referendum. Attempts to bully or bribe us into voting a particular way are undemocratic.
“The attempts by the political elite in Ireland and in Brussels to deceive the people have gone well beyond rhetoric here in the Dáil and I want to detail some of it.
“In February 2008 Commissioner Kuneva’s office said that Commission and Council were getting negative feedback on a Heath Directive and President Barroso instructed the Commission not to take unpopular initiatives during the Lisbon Treaty discussions. Then Androula Vassiliou, the Health Commissioner, told MEPs on 1 April that the Commission will publish its long-delayed proposal for a cross-border healthcare directive in June. And we find – surprise, surprise – that the publication date will be 25 June, after the Irish referendum.
“In his contribution Deputy Ruairi Quinn said we have to support the Treaty, it is not perfect but “it is the only Europe around”. That is false. We have a choice. We can say ‘No’ to the drive towards the type of Europe envisaged by Jose Barroso, President of the EU Commission who said last July: ‘Sometimes I like to compare the EU as a creation to the organisation of Empire. We have the dimensions of Empire’.
“Sinn Féin TDs have set out the arguments against the Lisbon Treaty. We set out the direct implications for Ireland if the Lisbon Treaty is passed in terms of the loss of power, neutrality, public services, workers’ rights, rural Ireland and the economy. We have also set out in clear terms what the Irish Government should do in negotiations for a new Treaty. So I would like to conclude by calling on the electorate to participate in the debate, to come out and vote ‘NO’ and send the government back to secure a better deal for Ireland.”

UNDERMINES WORKERS’ RIGHTS
Also speaking on Tuesday Mary Lou McDonald MEP outlined the importance of workers’ rights in the referendum debate.
“The way in which the existing treaties are being used to undermine workers’ rights is a scandal. The European Court of Justice stated that its judgement on the Rüffert case is in keeping with the provisions of the existing Treaties. The Lisbon Treaty will do nothing to improve this situation”, McDonald said.
Protection of vulnerable workers throughout the European Union should have been secured in the negotiations on the Treaty but was not said the Dublin MEP.
“This judgement is yet another in a long litany of reasons why this Treaty should be rejected. The direction that the Treaty wants to take Europe is one which fundamentally undermines the values of Europe’s social model”, she said.
“In Ireland we have known since Irish Ferries and before that the pre-eminence of the internal market over all other considerations in the EU was leading to situations where workers’ rights are being undermined, with workers in similar employment on different pay and conditions.
“Whilst I support the spirit of the European Trade Union Confederation call for a social progress clause to be inserted into the Treaty I am of the firm belief that the only way to secure workers’ rights into the future is to reject this Treaty and send member states back to the negotiating table.
“A new Treaty could firmly establish that fundamental rights, especially the right to strike and the right of workers and their representatives to take collective action to improve their working and living conditions beyond minimum standards, would take precedence over the internal market. By rejecting this Treaty Ireland can reopen the debate about the future of Europe and allow member states secure a better deal for Europe”, McDonald said.
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