26th Apr 2019

Commission under fire in Irish Lisbon treaty campaign

  • There are less than 40 days left to go to the second referendum (Photo: EUobserver)

The European Commission's delegation in Ireland has stirred complaints by publishing a statement about the Lisbon treaty in the midst of the referendum campaign.

The delegation on its website on Friday (21 August) wrote a five point refutation of Irish farmers' allegations that Lisbon would alter inheritance rights, reduce Ireland's EU voting weight and lead to Turkish accession.

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"The statements of the Irish farm lobby group (Farmers for No) on the Lisbon Treaty and on EU policies ...are factually incorrect and misleading. They represent a totally distorted picture of the reality," it said.

The Farmers for No is a breakaway group of around 50 members from the Irish Farmers' Association, which is backing a Yes vote.

"The Commission's use of its web-site in this fashion is an interference with Ireland's referendum process," Anthony Coughlan, the director of the anti-Lisbon treaty National Platform EU Research and Information Centre, said. "Mr Martin Territt [the commission's envoy in Dublin] should be restrained from this abuse."

The editor of the protestant Church of Ireland Gazette, Canon Ian Ellis, also objected.

"Challenges made to whatever groups in the referendum run-up should be made by the Irish parties involved and should not emanate from the European institutions ...Because the debate is about the nature of the EU, the EU must 'leave the room'," he wrote in an editorial.

With less than 40 days to go before the new vote on the Lisbon pact on 2 October, the pro-treaty side is carefully managing the public message.

Pro-Lisbon campaigner and ex-European Parliament president Pat Cox intervened last week to get the Irish Jesuit congregation to block the anti-Lisbon group, Youth Defence/Coir, from using the image of a Jesuit-owned Caravaggio painting in an anti-treaty leaflet, the Irish Times reports.

And Irish finance minister Brian Lenihan said on Sunday that the parliament will not vote on controversial "Nama" legislation until after the Lisbon referendum.

Nama - the National Asset Management Agency - is to be a new government body for bailing out banks which cannot pay their debts.

Meanwhile, US microchip maker Intel has come out on the pro-Lisbon side, despite being hammered by the European Commission earlier this year with the largest anti-trust fine in EU history.

"If for the third time in less than 10 years we reject an EU treaty, we must realise this will create uncertainty in the minds of investors," the manager of the firm's Irish branch, Jim O'Hara, said.

Recent polls indicate that Ireland will vote Yes on 2 October due to fears of being left out in the cold in times of economic hardship.

But Irish betting agency Paddy Power over the weekend cut the odds of a No vote from 5/1 against to 5/2 against.

"We have seen a shift toward the 'No' side in the last couple of weeks and it appears our punters think things could be just as tight second time around," Paddy Power spokeswoman Sharon McHugh told Reuters.

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