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10 October 2002 Edition

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Democracy is the key Nice issue

Democracy, trust, equality and neutrality are the key issues in the Nice Treaty campaign, according to Sinn Féin party president Gerry Adams. Highlighting the democracy crux, Adams said that "for Sinn Féin the key issue in this referendum is democracy. It is about the decision of the government to deliberately disregard the decision of the electorate and re-run the same referendum".

Adams joined the No to Nice campaign trail this week in Dublin. Tomorrow he goes to Galway, while early next week he joins the campaign in Cork.

Speaking at a press conference in Dublin on Tuesday, Adams said that, "When the people said NO, the government should have gone to the other EU member states and renegotiated to take account of Irish concerns, but instead we have been forced into a rerun. Would this have been run again if Germany, France or Britain had voted no?"

Adams also highlighted the changing of the rules under Nice for running the EU in favour of the big states to the disadvantage of the smaller states before any enlargement occurs. This he said will "create a two-tier, two-speed EU that favours the bigger states, the loss of permanent representation on the EU Commission in an enlarged EU and the abolition of the veto in 30 policy areas. All of these will seriously undermine the strength of our voice in the EU."

The issue of neutrality and the Nice Treaty provisions that will create a political and security committee which will oversee the Rapid Reaction Force was also a concern for Sinn Féin, said Adams, who stressed that the Seville declarations on neutrality were "too narrowly focused and do not alter the Treaty". Adams said that "if the government was serious about defending neutrality then why did it oppose the Sinn Féin motion to the Dáil to have neutrality enshrined in the constitution? Seville is a fig leaf for the government."

Dublin Sinn Féin will have more than 500 activists out nightly over the next two weeks canvassing 100,000 homes in the city. The party in the capital has distributed over 250,000 Nice newssheets. Dublin South West TD Sean Crowe has said that the reaction on the door has seen voters raise three issues. They were neutrality, trust and deregulation of essential services.

Crowe said "the government's own actions have introduced the issue of trust on the doorsteps. Voters are angry at the very idea of being asked to put their trust in a government which lied to them during the election campaign and which is tarred with the fallout of the Flood Tribunal.

"Sinn Féin believes that the debate around Nice should be based on the Treaty itself," said Crowe but added that "it is clear from early returns that a lot of people voting will be doing so out of anger against establishment parties and establishment politics".


NO to Nice - Towards a Europe of Equals


On 19 October, Irish people in the 26 Counties will go to the polls for a second time to vote on the Nice Treaty. This is a vital vote as it is an opportunity to have a real say in the future development of the European Union. In calling for a NO vote, Sinn Féin is seeking a more inclusive and democratic EU, one where all states - current members AND accession states - are treated equally. That is, we are seeking a Europe of Equals reflecting our vision of an Ireland of Equals.

More and more Irish people now believe that successive governments have ceded too much control to unaccountable EU institutions. They believe that the gradual erosion of our sovereignty and our neutrality have gone too far.

They want this to change. It is well recognised that the EU already has a huge democratic deficit, but Nice did absolutely nothing to redress this.

On the contrary, Nice would move decision making even further away from the individual citizen, from the local communities we live in, and from the governments we democratically elect. These are issues that not only affect Ireland and current EU members, they also impact on the applicant states.

Democracy is the key to Nice 2

For Sinn Féin, the key issue in this referendum campaign is Democracy. It is about the decision of the government to deliberately defy the decision of the electorate and rerun the same referendum, something described by former Attorney General John Rogers as 'constitutionally suspect' and 'undemocratic'. The behaviour of the Irish government in this situation corroborates our fundamental objection to the Treaty of Nice itself, that it brings to an end the EU as a partnership of equal sovereign states.

The very holding of this referendum, a rerun of the last one, is proof of how smaller states will be bullied and cajoled and our democratic vote ignored by the bigger states - if we let them.

The threat to Irish neutrality is highlighted by Afri's referendum poster

Nice creates a two-tier EU

The constitutional amendment the government is asking us to adopt refers specifically to those articles of the Treaty that provide for what is called 'enhanced cooperation'. This will allow up to eight member states to use the EU institutions to advance their common interests, leaving the rest outside the loop. Taken together with the extension of Qualified Majority voting to 30 new areas and the loss of the permanent Irish presence on the EU Commission, this represents a major blow to both Irish sovereignty and equitable Irish participation in the EU. The YES campaign is running a scare campaign which ignores the complexity of the Treaty. Obviously, the YES side does not want to deal with the detail of the Treaty because the devil is in the detail.

This may well be the last referendum in which the people of the 26 Counties can really influence the shape of the EU of which we are members. Because if Nice is passed then so-called 'enhanced co-operation' will allow eight or more states to proceed ahead of the rest regardless of the will of the people in any one state. Under Nice the two-tier EU will be a reality.


Neutrality is the other central issue in this referendum. The Nice Treaty continues the militarisation of the EU, which Sinn Féin opposes. Nice establishes a new Political and Security Committee to deal with EU Common Foreign and Security Policy. The EU Rapid Reaction Force will come under the auspices of this new Committee.

The new Committee will thus oversee a Rapid Reaction Force that is authorised to operate outside the borders of the EU. This gives the force an offensive capacity, something the Irish government should never have agreed to.

The Seville Declarations are political statements not protocols, and so do not alter one word of the Treaty. The proposed new wording in the constitutional amendment is too narrowly focused and is not a real neutrality amendment. It only addresses 'common defence' as set out in Nice.

It will not prevent, for example, the government allowing US warplanes to use Shannon airport as a base, without consultation in the Dáil, as they continue to do, nor involvement in the Rapid Reaction Force. Sinn Féin opposes these changes under Nice because they undermine Irish neutrality, and because we are opposed to the development of the EU as a militarised superpower. Instead, we want to see neutrality enshrined in the Irish Constitution, a withdrawal from the EU Rapid Reaction Force and the promotion of an Independent foreign policy.


Nice also contains a covert privatisation agenda in the form of Article 133.

If passed, this would remove transparency from trade negotiations (GATS and TRIPS), remove the European Parliament from any consultation on these trade negotiations and seriously undermine our control over key public services. The EU's chief negotiator for GATS, Robert Madelin, has identified the health and education sectors as 'ripe for liberalisation'.

Those trade unionists and Labour members who claim to oppose privatisation and yet support Nice should seriously rethink their position on the issue.

Nice is about how the EU should be governed

Most of the arguments from the Yes campaign are based on the lie that a rejection of Nice will end our involvement in the European Union. But this is not a referendum about our continued membership. This is not about whether we should leave the EU. It is about how the EU should be governed and our participation in that.

Equally bogus are the dire warnings of economic catastrophe if we vote NO.

They have produced no evidence whatsoever to show that a NO vote will damage the economy. There is no consensus among economists and other experts that YES will benefit our economy and NO will damage it. In fact, the EU has not insulated us from the downturn and neither will Nice. It has not protected us from budget cuts and neither will Nice.

We all know that, if there is a NO vote, the Taoiseach will be on RTE television right away to reassure Ireland and the world that this has no economic implications, that the economy is still healthy, and that we are open for business and investment. And he will be right.

The YES side are threatening the electorate that this state will be isolated in the EU if we vote NO and we will penalised by the other member states. I don't believe this will happen, but I would ask the Yes side to follow the logic of their argument. If they really believe this is the case then they are telling the Irish people we have no real choice and we will be punished for exercising our democratic rights. What does that say about democracy and accountability in the EU and in Ireland?

People are angry about this Treaty. They are angry at the fundamentally undemocratic nature of a second referendum. They are concerned about the threats to neutrality and sovereignty, and are worried about our diminishing voice in Europe. I believe that on October 19th the people should come out and reject Nice for a second time.

Let's get a Treaty we can live with. Not one dictated by others.


Yes camp spends over 1.5 million Euro on Nice


Two weeks to go to Nice referendum day and the Yes campaign has stepped up considerably, with ever more warnings about the dire consequences of a No vote. Not only have we Irish Business and Employers Organisation's ¤500,000 billboard campaign, we also have an increase in the bizarre and unsustainable arguments being made for a Yes vote on 19 October. In total it is estimated that over ¤1.53 million is being spent by the yes camp in the referendum campaign.


Perhaps the most questionable intervention in the Nice campaign so far came last week from David O'Sullivan, the EU Commission's secretary-general and the highest ranking 26-County EU official.

O'Sullivan, speaking in Brussels said that " a lot is hanging on the Irish vote. If Nice is not ratified, we will go into a very difficult situation" and "people will not understand why Ireland has put Europe in this situation".

While claiming that he was "not telling people how to vote", O'Sullivan claimed that the failure of the EU to enlarge could provoke migration flows into the 26 Counties. He also maintained that reopening negotiations would be a Pandora's box, which could leave the 26 Counties worse off.

It seems a strange sort of EU where debate and decision making is accompanied with the threat that too much debate and negotiation is bad for you!


Also in the warning business was EU Commisioner David Byrne, who believes that those of us who have a problem with how the EU operates should "hold their fire".

"We will have a full opportunity to discuss all of these issues at the next intergovernmental conference," he said.


Throughout the Nice campaign, a range of advocates for a Yes vote have sought to gloss over any of the detail of the Treaty downplaying its importance. Environment minister Martin Cullen claimed that the treaty was nothing more than an agreed means of enlarging the EU. Cullen also claimed that the Nice Treaty will allow the EU to continue to promote its humane alternative to strident global capitalism advocated by the World Trade Organisation and World Bank.

Those of us who believed that the EU operates to much the same agenda as the WTO and IMF have been wondering was there some EU that Cullen was referring to?


Labour MEP Proinsias De Rossa is arguing that there is nothing to worry about in the Nice Treaty and that "it costs us nothing to vote yes".

DeRossa also took a unique step in terms of the Yes camp by actually discussing some of the detail of the treaty. DeRosa feels that the No campaign have been distorting the loss of veto envisaged in the Treaty.

This wasn't an issue, according to De Rossa, because it actually began under the Maastricht Treaty. Qualified majority voting allows the EU "to act" according to De Rossa while the use of veto "prevents progress".


Quote of the week from the Yes camp must go to Fine Gael MEP Joe McCartin. Attacking Sinn Féin, he accused them of leading a "confused No coalition of variable geometry and two faced thinking".

McCartin has also contradicted the views of many in the Yes camp by saying that even if there was a no vote "the legal experts will find a way to enlarge".

McCartin was run close in the bizarre camp by justice minister Michael McDowell, who believed that a no vote could lead to "winded government and a wounded Ireland". McDowell asked: "We got rid of the iron curtain, are we going to replace it with a Valley of Squinting Windows Irish Lace Curtain across Europe" Help.


For a real independent Irish foreign policy

PANA Conference

A distinguished gathering of specialists in their field came together to discuss Ireland's foreign policy at a day-long conference organised by the Peace and Neutrality Alliance last weekend.

Councillor Dermot Lacey, Lord Mayor of Dublin, who gave the opening address, set the tone. "It is immoral that in Ireland, with unprecented wealth - some say we are now the second richest county in the world- that our aid to the third world is falling." Caoimhe de Barra from Trocaire took up the point. Ireland reneged on our commitment in September 2000 to make aid 0.7% of our GNP. By May of this year, our objective was lowered to 0.41%.

"Historically, the quality of our overseas aid programme has been without parallel, and contributed to our high standing which won Ireland a seat on the Security Council. But we no longer command this respect, because of our falling aid, because of our treatment of refugees, and because our independence in matters of trade and foreign policy are increasingly undermined by our alignment with world power blocs."

As Raymond Deane of the Palestine Ireland Solidarity Campaign pointed out, the heady days when Ireland had the respect of the third world, when Frank Aitken led the League of Nations, the days when Ireland, under the United Nations, sent contingents to the Belgian Congo and the Lebanon in support of peace, against the machinations of world powers - these days are gone. And equally, the United Nations itself is becoming a 'facilitator of war', rather than enforcing its resolutions upon which world peace might be based. He instanced the failure to enforce UN Resolutions regarding Palestine.

Michael Bermingham, of the Campaign to end Iraqi sanctions, pursued the point in relation to War on Iraq, and referred to Article 29 of the Constitution which affirms adherence to the principle of the pacific settlement of international disputes by international arbitration or judicial determination.

Douglas Hamilton, recently returned from Cuba, took up the point in relation to the economic blockade of Cuba and its most damaging and unjustifiable effects. He raised important questions of what constitutes neutrality, and what are the constituents of an Independent Foreign Policy. Which issues, of course, brought the whole conference to the question of today, Nice 2 and the militarisation of the EU power bloc.

Roger Cole, chairperson of PANA, talked of the huge military build up of the Rapid Reaction Force, to which Ireland, unconstitutionally, has subscribed. The RRF has defined its role to militarily engage 1,500 miles beyond the ever expanding EU borders. "This is not a force designed to promote peace, so much as tool of aggression to advance the political and economic designs of a power bloc which Nice 2 underwrites, which seeks to undermine the voice of independence and neutrality of its member states," said Cole.


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