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13th Apr 2024

Ireland not serving citizens on Lisbon, says Ganley

  • The Irish Parliament's sub-committee on Ireland's Future in Europe is due to hand in its report to the Irish government by the end of the month (Photo: EUobserver)

Speaking in the Irish parliament on Tuesday (18 November), Declan Ganley, the head of anti-Lisbon campaign group Libertas, said the Irish government had encouraged other EU states to continue with ratification of the Lisbon treaty in order to increase pressure on Irish citizens.

"It is very clear to me that some who should be representing Ireland wish it to be isolated," he told the parliamentary sub-committee on Ireland's Future in Europe.

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"There is a charade being played in this country right now to walk us into another referendum."

The sub-committee was set up in the wake of last June's rejection of the Lisbon treaty and is due to hand in its report to the Irish government by the end of the month.

Earlier in discussions, Mr Ganley suggested that the British foreign secretary, David Miliband, had told the Irish government that they would be prepared to halt British ratification of the Lisbon treaty.

By not taking them up on the offer, "we lost the best negotiating chip we had," said Mr Ganley.

The three-hour meeting was characterised by heated exchanges as committee members from various Irish political parties became increasingly frustrated with the Libertas chairperson.

For his part, Mr Ganley said the Irish rejection of the Lisbon treaty did not amount to a rejection of the European Union, describing Irish membership as having had a profoundly positive effect.

He continued by saying however that "Libertas believes we have to make the citizens of Europe feel like this is their project."

To do this there would need to be a pan-European election on a fresh treaty that should not exceed 25 pages, as the Lisbon treaty was an "affront" to democracy and embodied the worst examples of elitism, he said.

Lucinda Creighton, a member of parliament for opposition party Fine Gael, said Mr Ganley talked about elites, "but are you not the very idea of an elite, you use your power and money to secure influence."

Beverley Flynn, a deputy for the ruling Fianna Fail party, asked Mr Ganley why he voted Yes in both the Nice referendums of 2001 and 2002 and then went ahead and spent around €1 million fighting the Lisbon treaty in 2008.

"In those intervening years, what happened to you?" she asked.

Mr Ganley said the existence of a general election between the two Nice referendums had provided for a proper debate and a chance to discuss and vote on concerns.

Despite the Irish Times and TNS MBRI poll published on Monday suggesting a majority of Irish voters would now support the Lisbon treaty if concessions were granted, Mr Ganley felt this was not the case.

"Don't hold it (another referendum) because there will be a No vote, a No vote that will probably provide the collapse of this government or at least several senior ministers," he said.

Asked about his intentions to run a pan-European party in next year's European elections, Mr Ganley said: "We are in the process of studying if that can be done but I would certainly like to."

"That democratic deficit that they've been talking about for years, this is a chance to finally fix it."

Strasbourg urges ratification before June 2009

Meanwhile, the European Parliament's constitutional affairs committee approved on Monday a report urging the Irish government to put forward concrete proposals on the way forward after the referendum to ensure that the Lisbon Treaty is ratified before the 2009 European Parliament elections.

The committee also called on Sweden and the Czech Republic to complete their ratification procedures before the end of 2008. The Swedish parliament is expected to pass the treaty on Thursday.

The report, drafted by German Social Democrat MEP Jo Leinen, was adopted in the committee with 16 votes in favour and six against. The plenary is expected to vote on the report in early December, before the European government heads are to meet and agree what to do with the Lisbon treaty stalemate.

Asked why a second referendum in Ireland is required when this was not the case in France and the Netherlands after they rejected the Constitutional Treaty, Mr Leinen said: "The situation is different now than in June 2005, when there were two Nos in one week and seven more countries set to hold referendums."

"But when all the countries say 'Yes', it's legitimate to ask [the Irish] if that's their last answer," he argued at a press conference in Strasbourg.

"A second No would be a No, and then of course you could forget about the treaty. But a first No is volatile, let's say, because it's not a clear No against Europe. Here you have a diffuse coalition of Nos. We respect it, but we have to respect as well the Yes of the other member states," Mr Leinen concluded.

He repeated calls for the Czech Republic to ratify by 1 January 2009, the date when Prague takes over the six-month rotating EU presidency from France, otherwise claiming that the central European state would lack "credibility" and the "ability to negotiate" on behalf of the bloc.

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