Thursday

21st Feb 2019

Ireland announces Lisbon referendum date

  • The front page of the Irish Times after the No vote in June last year (Photo: EUobserver)

Just over a year after Ireland's shock rejection of the Lisbon Treaty, Dublin has announced that a second referendum on the charter will take place on 2 October.

The move comes after the Irish government last month secured agreement from other member states on a package of guarantees on interpretation of the treaty in the areas of neutrality, tax sovereignty and social and ethical issues.

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These areas had been identified as ones where there was confusion among Irish voters about the implications of the treaty.

Irish prime minister Brian Cowen made the date public in the Irish parliament on Wednesday (8 July.) He said the concerns of the Irish voters had been addressed by the legal guarantees.

"On that basis, I recommended to the government that we return to the people to seek their approval for Ireland to ratify the treaty and that referendum will take place on 2 October."

Ireland was the only country that put the treaty to referendum last year. A vociferous no-campaign suggested the treaty would see the EU set tax rates, legalise abortion and make the Irish army take part in EU peacekeeping operations.

The government was wrong-footed by the anti-treaty camp and the June vote saw 53.4 come out against the treaty, causing shock in Brussels and some grumbling about ungratefulness as the country has been a major beneficiary of EU funds.

Dublin indicated early on that it would put the treaty back to a vote but only after it was seen to be winning concessions first.

As part of the general Lisbon guarantees package, it also secured agreement that the number of commissioners would remain at one per member state even after the entry into force of the Lisbon Treaty, which foresees a reduction in commission size.

The national backdrop has changed dramatically since last year with the country having been severely affected by the global economic downturn. Polls suggest, and analysts have widely predicted, that this will lead to a yes vote in October.

The government is also hoping to make the treaty - not known for being easy reading - more accessible to voters. It has set up a website explaining it and is sending postcards to all households outlining the legal guarantees on the treaty.

In addition, the referendum bill is designed to ease any voter fears that EU decision-making can be taken without national scrutiny by increasing parliamentary oversight.

All other countries have ratified the treaty in their parliaments. But Germany, the Czech Republic and Poland have yet to finish the ratification process which still needs the signatures of the countries' presidents.

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