MEPs to ask US Congress about funding for Irish No vote
The European Parliament's delegation to the US will on its next trans-Atlantic visit ask Congress about allegations that the Irish anti-Lisbon Treaty campaign was funded out of America.
The parliament's political group leaders - the "conference of presidents" - made the decision on Thursday (25 September) following calls for transparency by the Irish and French governments and the European Commission.
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The move also comes after Declan Ganley - an Irish businessman with US interests who ran the prominent No-vote lobby, the Libertas group - admitted loaning it €200,000 of his own money. Under Irish rules, donations must be capped at €6,348.
The conference of presidents decided not to set up its own commission of enquiry, leaving any investigation to Ireland's Standards in Public Office Commission (SIPO). But the parliament's administration will "regularly and closely monitor the situation."
Using language that puts Mr Ganley in an unsavoury light, the parliament statement noted that SIPO "enjoyed real investigative powers and that any proven misuse of funds ... could lead to sanctions, including of a criminal nature."
The leader of the Liberal group, Graham Watson, said he supported contacting the US Congress because Irish-American groups had funded the Irish terrorist group, the IRA, in the past.
The idea that Mr Ganley fronted a US plot to kill the Lisbon Treaty emerged when Irish media reported that his US firm, Rivada Networks, had a €200 million communications equipment contact with the Pentagon.
The French leader of the Green group in the European Parliament, Daniel Cohn-Bendit, popularised the theory at the opening meeting of this week's plenary session in Brussels.
"The Irish press revealed that there possibly exists a link between the financers of the No campaign in Ireland and the Pentagon as well as the CIA ... If proved true, this would clearly show that there are forces in the US willing to pay people to destabilise a strong and autonomous Europe," he said.
"We stand on the side of those who strive for absolute transparency in all of these questions in order to keep Europe from suffering harm," parliament president Hans-Gert Poettering added.
No means no?
Ireland rejected the Lisbon Treaty in a referendum in June, with most No voters saying they lacked information on the treaty contents. Those who voted No were also concerned about threats to Irish neutrality, Europe's 'democratic deficit' and a weakening of Ireland's position in the European Union.
The main thrust of the treaty was to tidy up EU institutions after the 2004 round of enlargement and help create a robust EU foreign policy, its supporters say.
Mr Ganley is now campaigning around Europe to launch an anti-Lisbon political group in time for European Parliament elections in 2009. A second Irish referendum on Lisbon is not expected before late 2009.
"Libertas is obliged to communicate the details of its funding to the Irish authorities in 2009. Libertas will comply with this obligation," Mr Ganley said in response to what he called the parliament's "baseless allegations."
"This statement gives us grave concern for the state of democracy in Europe," he added. "Neither Libertas nor I have done anything illegal or wrong - this is interference in the electoral process in Ireland."