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25th Feb 2024

'Outside interference' in Lisbon treaty campaign, Irish minister says

Irish Europe minister Dick Roche has said there was "serious external interference" in the run-up to the country's referendum on the Lisbon Treaty.

The minister made the comment after Ireland's ethics watchdog published a report Friday (13 March) saying that Libertas, which last year led a successful campaign against the EU's Lisbon treaty, did not reveal enough information on its referendum campaign.

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  • Declan Ganley - he says the report does not change the outcome of the Irish referendum (Photo: Libertas.eu)

The Standards in Public Office commission (SIPO) said that the head of Libertas, businessman Declan Ganley, did not provide details of a loan he made to the campaign.

SIPO said that Libertas also failed to give it information on the books provided by the Foundation for European Democracy as well as details on employees of Mr Ganley's company Rivada.

The report on "third parties" who took part in the referendum campaign noted that "despite a number of written and telephone reminders to Libertas, it has failed to provide the required information."

SIPO defines third parties as "an individual ...or body of persons" that accepts a donation exceeding €126.97 in value. It notes that three types of donations are barred: anonymous donations of more than €126.97; donations that exceed €6,348.69 by one person in one year and foreign donations.

Ireland's referendum, which resulted in a firm rejection of the Lisbon Treaty, stalling its implementation in the EU, saw four third parties investigated by Sipo.

Of these, only Libertas said it had received a loan for its campaign, with Mr Ganley informing SIPO that he gave a personal loan of €200,000 to help the anti-treaty campaign.

The commission said that it wrote to Mr Ganley on 22 August asking for legal details on the loan and how it would be repaid.

"In spite of subsequent correspondence with Mr Ganley and his legal representatives, the information requested by the Standards Commission has not been provided by Libertas at the time of writing this report," the report said.

The report also notes that it received no reply on its question of whether Libertas received other loans and on its query about who was the group's "responsible person" - whose main job is to oversee political donations.

Not informed of deadline

Reacting to the report, Europe minister Dick Roche, who has a long-running feud with Mr Ganley, was quoted by the Irish Times as saying:

"It raises real issues regarding the extent of foreign interference channelled via Libertas into the referendum campaign. The report demonstrates the need for an immediate strengthening of the law."

"It confirms questions raised by me and others about the role of US defence contractor Rivada Networks Ltd and its Irish office. It contains and confirms that there was serious external interference in Ireland's referendum campaign from Mr Ganley's eurosceptic contacts via the Libertas campaign."

In the run-up to the June referendum last year, Ireland was awash with speculation that Libertas was being funded from US sources opposed to European integration.

For its part, Libertas, which is in the process of establishing itself as a pan-European force ahead of the European elections, said it was not aware of a deadline for providing the information.

"Libertas remains willing to provide the information required by SIPO. The latest correspondence to Libertas from SIPO dates from February 19th 2009, and Libertas has not been informed of a deadline for publication of today's report. It has always been our intention to provide SIPO with all of the necessary information by March 31st, and that remains our intention."

It also pointed out that the report does not change the fact that Ireland voted No to the Lisbon treaty and claimed that if the country had voted Yes, "it would not have been subject to this scrutiny."

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