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7 February 2008 Edition

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Lisbon: Set the date for honest debate

OPINION POLLS last week confirmed that the majority of voters in the 26 Counties are concerned at the lack of information about the Lisbon Treaty. This is a serious problem only a few months out from a referendum that will have profound implications for this country.
The Irish Government must urgently set a date for the referendum and ensure a mature debate on the implications of the Treaty.
The type of discussion that is required must inform, not confuse. It must involve, not exclude. It must show Ireland’s maturity as a nation and not replicate the neo-colonial, ‘cap-in-hand’ gombeenism and government scare tactics that have afflicted previous public debates about Ireland’s relationship with the EU.
Last week the National Forum on Europe launched its summary guide to the Lisbon Treaty. Unfortunately, that document was biased. In response a team headed by Dublin MEP Mary Lou McDonald met with the forum and presented over 150 changes to the document. While some changes were made, importantly that the Treaty retain its correct name contrary to governments wish to present it as the ‘Reform Treaty’ a significant number were not. So, this week, Sinn Féin launched its own alternative guide to the Treaty, which the forum has agreed to circulate.
Sinn Féin readily recognises the benefits that have accrued to Ireland from the 26-County state’s membership of the EU. But Sinn Féin also recognises that not everything has been good and that the Lisbon Treaty is a bad deal for Ireland.
Lisbon increases the democratic deficit that exists within the EU structure and accelerates the transfer of decision-making powers away from the Dáil to the EU and the loss of the 26 Counties’ automatic right to a commissioner. The treaty establishes an EU Minister for Foreign Affairs and a common defence/military policy. It has implications for our economy and the provision of public services.
The 26 Counties is the only EU state that is being allowed to vote on this hugely important matter. What does it say about the direction in which the EU is heading if one of democracy’s most fundamental expressions, a vote, is denied?  
The EU must underpin democratic principles, not undermine them, and the EU project must have the democratic mandate of the peoples of Europe.
The only reason there is a referendum in Ireland is because the Irish Government has no choice in the matter. It is thanks to the Crotty judgment that we have the opportunity to shape our vision for Europe. A Europe underpinned by equality for all its peoples.  
The Lisbon Treaty is a bad deal for Ireland, Europe and the wider world. It undermines public services and workers’ rights. It promotes EU militarism. It fails to address Ireland’s responsibilities to the developing world. It makes no advance in protecting the environment. And it spectacularly fails to bring forward democratic reform of EU institutions. For all these reasons, Sinn Féin will oppose it.

An Phoblacht
44 Parnell Sq.
Dublin 1