17 October 2002 Edition
Defend Democracy, neutrality and sovereignty
BY ROBBIE MacGABHANN
Fed up with the backsliding, doublespeak and the obvious lies? Then vote No to the second Nice Treaty this Saturday.
It has nothing to do with the coalition lies about their pre-election knowledge of the dire state of tax revenue and the need for spending cuts. It has nothing to do with the shabby introduction of stealth taxes and ill thought out cutbacks that hit hardest on the weakest in society.
It is not because of the corruption, the clear abuse of public position and the complete absence of any real punishment for those involved.
It is because of the lies about neutrality. The Seville Declaration does not have any legal standing and the 26-County voters deserved a protocol and the right to vote on whether the constitution should have a declaration of positive neutrality.
It is because of the lies about enlargement. The EU can enlarge without the Nice Treaty being passed but the coalition government are determined to play on emotions by claiming we are excluding other small states like ourselves. Voting No excludes no state from EU membership.
It is because of lies about job losses. No one has given us any real reason why a No vote jeopardises jobs.
Sinn Féin has been very clear in its argument for a No vote.
We are saying No to a badly formulated treaty that will disempower smaller states, that will do nothing to make the EU's institutions more democratic, accountable and transparent.
We are saying vote No to the loss of veto and loss of commissioner.
We want a better EU rooted in the principle of equality and rights for all member states and finally, No to a military superstate.
Doorsteps defy pollsters
BY JOANNE CORCORAN
Reading the papers this week, anyone could be forgiven for thinking that everybody intends to vote 'Yes' in the Nice referendum on Saturday. The establishment media would have you believe that despite the fact the first referendum was defeated and this is a mere repeat, nobody is affronted by the government's cheek in rerunning the referendum and that everyone is content to go down the Yes road this time. The Sunday Independent used as a big headline on its front page this week, 'We will serve our national interests by voting YES' and proceeded to say that the Yes vote would win by 3:2. But such happy predictions by the establishment's cheerleaders don't bear any resemblance to the response that canvassers for Sinn Féin are receiving on the doorsteps.
In Dublin, for example, supporters, along with Sinn Féin TDs and councillors, have spent the last few weeks delivering leaflets and canvassing the doors of Dublin on the upcoming referendum.
"We're not getting the positive feeling for Yes at the doors that the newspapers keep saying is out there," says Larry O'Toole, councillor for Dublin North-East. "In fact, in the last few nights I've heard nothing but 'Nos' and 'I don't know'."
In TD Aengus Ó Snodaigh's area of Dublin South-Central, his wife and Director of Elections, Aisling, says they are getting a massive response from the area. "I would say that almost 75% of the doors we are knocking on are either 'No' or are leaning that way," she says. "The only problem in our constituency is getting the people out to vote. The fact that this is the second time they are being asked to come out is an obstacle in itself. They don't see the point in voting again, if their answer wasn't accepted the first time."
Larry O'Toole is facing the same problem in his area.
"Europe is an issue which people don't feel connected to. They looked at the first treaty, and the small number that went out to vote ended up rejecting it. People also feel that it is being forced upon them too enthusiastically by the government this time."
Patricia Smith, who lives in Larry's constituency, is one of those who is wary of the government's attempts to win a 'Yes' vote.
"They are doing what they always do when they want to get their own way," she said. "They are spending an absolute fortune on propaganda, and treating us as if we're all thick. I wasn't confused when I voted 'No' last time. I don't think anybody was. And anyway, do they honestly think that anyone will trust what they say after all the stunts they've pulled since May?"
So what are the reasons for people disobeying the governments wishes and voting 'No' again?
Aisling says that people are citing lack of trust with the government as the main reason for their 'No' vote.
"That's the predominant feeling we are getting," she says. "But in addition to that, many people are saying that the notion of a European army frightens them, and they don't seem to have been won over by the pointless Seville declaration."
Larry is finding that the same issue is cropping up in his area. "People are saying to me 'I don't want to see my son or daughter having to fight in a war ten years down the line'. The Irish people seem to be fonder of their neutrality than the government thinks."
Patricia says she has read all the leaflets again this time but will still be voting 'No'.
"I don't think, from what I have read, that voting 'No' will prevent enlargement from taking place. First they were saying in Europe that it didn't matter for enlargement if we voted 'No', now they are saying it does. It's just another group of politicians who keep changing their minds and telling us how to vote. I have heard on television that enlargement can go ahead for some countries through the Amsterdam and Maastricht Treaties and that the rest of it will just be delayed. I also don't want us to lose our equal say as many of the losses we can expect seem to be pointing to."
Patricia is one of those more informed on the Nice Treaty. However there are many people who still, even though this is the second referendum, don't understand what it is about.
"I am hearing a lot of uncertainty on the doorsteps as to what it is all about," Larry says. "This adds to my belief that people aren't as interested in Europe as the government seems to be relying on."
Aisling says the best thing about canvassing so far has been the positive response to Sinn Féin on the doorsteps. "I was worried after all the events in the last week that the media has used to portray Sinn Féin once again in a bad light, that this would be the issue on the doorsteps.
"This hasn't been the case. People have been wishing us good luck and saying that they support our stand against the Treaty. We have all been really delighted."
And how do Larry and Aisling feel the referendum will go?
"Well, reading the papers and watching the news would have you worried," says Larry. "But I don't understand where they are getting their statistics from, because we are definitely not hearing all 'Yes's' on the doorsteps. If people go out and vote the way they say they are going to vote, then it could be another victory for the 'No' side."
Aisling says the same. "We'll get them out to vote," she says. "They came out for Aengus, and although Nice isn't nearly as important, the actions of the government since the election should be enough to spur them on."
Who is telling the blatant lie?
BY ROBBIE MacGABAHANN
As the referendum debate enters its last days, the stakes for the coalition grew ever higher, leading to Fianna Fáil leader Bertie Ahern accusing the No campaign of telling "blatant lies" about the neutrality elements of the Nice Treaty.
However, ther response from Sinn Féin TDs Aengus Ó Snodaigh and Arthur Morgan shows conclusively that the blatant lies are being told by Fianna Fáil.
Speaking at a press conference in Dublin on Tuesday, Ó Snodaigh said the Seville Declaration had no legal basis and that neutrality should be enshrined in the constitution. He read journalists the segments from the Dublin government's own white paper on Nice, which says that a declaration "does not have legal force" but expresses the "political intention of the signatories".
Arthur Morgan said the Seville Declaration amounted to a confidence trick designed to give the impression of something it's not.
"The Seville Declaration does not change one iota of the Nice Treaty. It is merely a political fig leaf given by the other EU heads of state to cover Messrs Ahern and Cowen's embarrassment", he said.
Ahern and Cowen have "a lot to be embarrassed about", he said. "While expounding on the virtues of their declaration that they claim will copperfasten and protect Irish neutrality ,US war planes, busily preparing to bring further conflict to the Middle East, are refueling and taking part in training exercises from Shannon Airport on an almost daily basis."
Morgan said the government cannot be trusted on the neutrality issue. He said, "They have engaged in a massive campaign of misinformation and blackmail regarding neutrality to get the Treaty passed. What is needed is a proper constitutional guarantee to protect Irish neutrality. This needs to be done regardless of the Treaty of Nice."
Gerry Adams addresses packed public meeting
Nice sweeps away economic sovereignty
Voting No to Nice Treaty and trying to implement the Good Friday Agreement are the same struggle - to achieve equality and the Republic on this Island.
The hall was packed. A long queue of people stretched out of the doors of the Gresham into the street. They were waiting for Gerry Adams, who came from his meeting with Blair in London earlier that day to speak to people in Dublin at a meeting on the Nice Referendum last Thursday evening.
Ciaran Doherty, a young man from Ógra Shinn Féin set the scene with a speech in defence of neutrality.
Roger Cole from the Peace and Neutrality Alliance took up the theme. "This force, a nuclear force, which has taken on the 'right' to operate 2,500 miles from EU borders in so-called 'peace enforcing', is not the Red Cross." He quoted Jose Maria Gil-Robles Gil-Delgado, a former president of the European parliament, who said 'We need to be a military power to be a world power.'
"The RRF", Cole said," is the force to build the EU into what Prodi said 'could and should aspire to be a world power' - a federal Super State, a new European Empire. Do we want that?"
Gerry Adams then gave a most upbeat speech, on the EU, on republicanism and on where the project to bring peace to this island lies now.
"I find the fact that we are having this referendum quite bizarre - to vote again on exactly the same treaty for a second time," he said. The government did not even have respect enough for the votes of the people in the first referendum to negotiate a protocol, as did the Danes, to upheld our neutrality.
"Nice is about changing the rules of governance of the EU, it's about a totally different dispensation. It's about sweeping away economic sovereignty. It's about decisions being taken away from state legislatures and determined centrally," said Adams.
"The core value of Irish Republicanism is people - any state must be people centred - this is our vision of a national republic in an Ireland of Equals. It's about housing, education, health, staying on the land.
"'You are never going to get that', they say, 'It's utopian. Go for the least worst option'. This is the politics of 'the least worst option'. My experience has taught me, all down the years, that you've no chance of getting the best option, unless you try.
"When we said that it was possible to get peace on this island, it was only by having the best option in mind. We are continuing to argue it out. A lot of other states are watching us. The way the EU has dealt with your votes, as if they didn't count - this is the EU of Nice 2, where the peoples, or states, are not equals, and some count less than others."
Crisis in the Peace Process
Gerry Adams then turned to talk of the current events on everyone's mind, as the unionists speeded up the crisis by withdrawing from the Assembly. "The GFA, like the Nice Treaty, is about the Reconquest of Ireland - and I believe we will see an Irish Republic on this island.
"The crisis emanates from the crisis in unionism. Unionists believed they were the top dogs across the whole country, and then, after partition, in the Six Counties. Garvaghy Road was about 'Croppies lie down'. Those Days are over. There is no escape from the Good Friday Agreement. The Brits didn't break a treaty, they minimised it.
"The Good Friday Agreement is over four years old now, and we are all suffering crisis fatigue, but I am sure the people in the Middle East would love to have their problems reduced to ours. Blair's job is to uphold the Union. Unionists will not go up the path to equality on their own, they have to be coaxed, persuaded. You think that's hard. Try Bairbre or Martin's job."
Gerry Adams talked of the struggle for human rights, He talked of Holy Cross School, of the continuous nightly attacks on nationalist people. "We are dealing with people who peddle drugs by day and are sectarian killers by night. There were three blast bombs last night, thrown into peoples' houses.
He went on: "The Good Friday Agreement is for these people. You have to find your space within this. Struggle is not handed down from above. You have to find a way to be a part of this. My conviction is that we will sort out the Peace Process - that we will have the opportunity of living republicanism on this island."
Great response in Galway
Gerry Adams was in Galway City on Friday last to campaign for a No vote in the referendum. It was six years since the party leader was last in the city.
The growth of the party since then has been unprecedented, with huge increases in the republican vote and level of activism. The dynamic Sinn Féin cumann in NUI, Galway played host to the largest gathering of students ever held in the university, when Adams addressed a packed hall in the Students Centre in the afternoon.
The Sinn Féin president urged students to reject the culture of Irish politics, which always settles for the "least-worst option". He described the government's attitude to the Nice Treaty as one that accepts without question the "least-worst option" dictated by the powerful EU states, without looking for equality between the states.
On the peace process, he told students that "the game is up for unionism, but it is not over" and he urged his audience to contribute to a New Ireland by working to end partition.
Adams then took time out to meet old republicans from across County Galway, and he also gave party activists a briefing on the current state of the peace process.
A huge crowd also gathered in Salthill later in the evening to hear him again outline the party's objections to the Nice Treaty. Cathoirleach of Galway Chomhairle Ceantair, Vince Forde, said that the huge turnout for the day's events shows the potential for further growth of the party in the city and county. "I believe that the success of Friday's visit shows how Sinn Féin will be the third largest party in the West in the not too distant future," he said. "There is a huge resurgence of interest in republicanism here, in particular among young people. That bodes well for the future success of the party here."
IBEC tackled on privatisation agenda
The Alliance Against Nice protested outside IBEC Headquarters on Wednesday morning, Sinn Féin's Nice Campaign Director Daithí Doolan said the reasons IBEC are backing the Nice Treaty "have a lot more to do with the privatisation agenda Nice advances than with concern for Irish jobs and workers.
"Their recent statements calling for cutbacks in wage increases shows how hollow those concerns are.
"Article 133 of the Nice Treaty will increase the EU's ability to pressurise member states into implementing sweeping privatisation measures and goes some way to explaining the motivation of the powerful big business lobbies behind Nice both in Ireland and elsewhere.
"It is to their shame that the Trade Union leadership has backed a Treaty that is such a bad deal for Irish workers and in particular public sector workers."
Ógra Shinn Féin, meanwhile, held a public auction in Temple Bar on Monday to highlight how Ireland's resources will be sold off to the fat cats.
SIPTU Regional votes 'No'
Delegates to SIPTU's Dublin Regional Conference last weekend defied the ICTU and SIPTU's executive council and voted to oppose the Nice Treaty, (by 184 votes to 134) on the grounds that "it opens the way to greater military intervention and further economic liberalism".
A key argument was that the Nice treaty promotes the privatisation of our semi-states, a subject of some concern to trade unionists now in Ireland.
There was strong debate at the conference. Roger Cole from the Peace and Neutrality Alliance was invited to address delegates, as was Prionsias De Rossa for the Yes voters. Cole argued that the ICTU has taken members for granted in calling for a yes vote. Members, he said, were well able to make up their own minds.
Most speakers supporting a No vote expressed their concern that the treaty sets up the legal framework for the European army, (the Rapid Reaction Force), which can undertake military action up to 2,500 miles from the frontiers of the expanded EU.
Taoiseach challenged on Enlargement
Formation of Technical Group boosts SF role in Dáil
Sinn Féin's five TDs joined those from the Green Party and 11 Independents to form a 'Technical Group' in the Dáil last week. This significant development has boosted Sinn Féin's role in the Dáil after the government steadfastly refused to recognise each party in its own right. The Technical Group's size means that it leapfrogs Labour in terms of speaking order in the chamber.
For the first time this Tuesday, Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin, the Sinn Féin Dáil leader, was able to ask the Taoiseach 'Leaders' Questions' on the Order of Business and to directly question the Minister for Health in prime Dáil question time.
The Taoiseach was challenged by Ó Caoláin as to why he did not support a Dáil motion welcoming the forthcoming enlargement of the EU. He said they were seeking the support of all parties and Independents for the motion which, he said, should be passed before the referendum on the Treaty of Nice. Ó Caoláin said:
"The Dáil should reflect the view of all parties and the vast majority of citizens that EU enlargement is positive. Both sides in the Nice Treaty referendum debate favour enlargement. We welcome new member states to the EU if their people vote for membership. They must, of course, also meet the democratic and human rights standards stipulated in the Copenhagen Criteria.
"When the idea of a Dáil declaration of support for enlargement was raised by EU Commission officials last week, the Tánaiste Mary Harney rejected it and said that such a declaration after the referendum would flout the will of the people. This is rich coming from a member of the government which deliberately defied our referendum decision last year. But it also raises the question: 'Why not make the declaration before the referendum?'
"This Dáil declaration of support for enlargement would make it crystal clear to all EU member states and applicants that the Irish people support enlargement and that if the Treaty is rejected by referendum a second time, it will not be on the basis of opposition to enlargement."
Neither the government, Fine Gael nor Labour supported the motion.
Ó Caoláin also challenged the Minister for Health on the continuing crisis in Monaghan General Hospital. He said both he and the Taoiseach had failed to intervene to aver the continued downgrading of the Hospital.
* Meanwhile the protest fast and vigil in support of Monaghan General Hospital continues at the gates of Government Buildings, Merrion Street, Dublin. People are encouraged to attend and support the vigil which is round-the-clock and continues until 28 October.
Treaty disadvantages Third World
Development group Comhlámh says it is concerned that the Nice Treaty will contribute to further marginalising the Third World. This will happen because Nice introduces changes in how Europe decides its trade policy.
Comhlámh says it understands the need for new decision-making structures in an Enlarged Europe, but points out that this transfer of additional power to the Council of Trade Ministers is not matched by any extra accountability.
"The Council of Trade Ministers has no collective accountability to the European Parliament or any other body. In this regard, Nice represents a backward step and a missed opportunity to increase public access to decision making.
"For developing countries this means their interests are again more vulnerable. Without accountability the European public will not have the opportunity to watch over the exercise of this new power. Experience shows that it is the poor countries who suffer most in this context.
"Trade interests are commercial interests, and where such power is not accountable, policy will be made to the benefit of the strong, squeezing the poorest. Where that happens vested interests will outweigh development concern." Said Conall Ó Caoimh, Policy Officer at Comhlámh.
"Democracy works on the basis of transferring power to leaders who are accountable. The problem Comhlámh finds with Nice is that the transfer of extra powers to the Trade ministers is not balanced by extra accountability - for example to the European Parliament," he said.
"Nice is a mixed basket of changes. What is good for Europe may be bad for the Third World. There is a link between what we do locally and what happens globally. Voters must be aware of this when judging the Treaty."