⁂ De Rossa attacks Czech Premier for his insufficient enthusiasm for Lisbon!

The Phoenix
March 13, 2009
Affairs of the Nation, p.11

“The Czech Prime Minister, Mirek Topolanek, was dealt with in no uncertain terms by Labour’s Europhile Dublin MEP Proinsias De Rossa recently after the Czech leader, whose country assumed presidency of the EU in January, addressed the European Parliament.

“Topolanke explained that he would not be to upset if the Lisbon Treaty was rejected, although he would vote for it and that the EU could function without Lisbon under existing Nice Treaty arrangements. He also warned, with reference to Ireland, that ‘telling member states in advance that they have to ratify the treaty and that they do not have the right to decide whether to approve it or no, is absurd’.

“This seems an eminently reasonable attitude to adopt by a lukewarm supporter of Lisbon but De Rossa was having none of it and he tore into the Czech premier with abandon saying he was ‘appalled by your comment here this morning that Lisbon is worse than Nice … That is not only untrue, it is divisive and it is a breach of trust. You have to seriously consider withdrawing your remarks.’

“Eurosceptic British Tory MEP Daniel Hannan picked up on De Rossa’s remarks and derided the Labour MEP on his blog, hosted on the Telegraph website, pointing out that certain pro-Lisbon politicians could not even stomach allies who were not sufficiently ardent in their support for the treaty. Hannan also pointed out that De Rossa was dismissing his own electorate in Ireland who had rejected his pro-Lisbon position. Worse, Hannan posted a video of De Rossa’s speech on his blog, christening it: ‘De Rossa’s attack on Democracy.’

“A livid De Rossa then wrote to Hannan demanding that he retitle his video, a demand the Tory MEP graciously acceded to, telling his colleague, ‘You’ve always struck me as a decent fellow’, while nevertheless repeating to De Rossa that he had a ‘contemptuous attitude’ towards his own electorate.”

Taoiseach Cowen’s spoofery on Lisbon Two could make Irish media & people laughing stock of Europe

authorThursday 11 December 2008

author by National Platform for EU Research & Information
author address 24 Crawford Avenue Dublin 9
author phone 00-353-1-8305792

Taoiseach Brian Cowen’s hypocrisy in pretending to “respect” the people’s referendum vote on Lisbon is now evident, for not a jot or tittle of Lisbon will be altered when he forces the people to vote on it a second time next year.

Political Declarations or promises regarding future Treaties that are not yet even drafted will not alter a comma of the Lisbon Treaty.

If people vote Yes in Lisbon Two to exactly the same Treaty which they voted No to last June they will be changing the Irish Constitution so as to recognise the supremacy of the law of the new Union which Lisbon would establish over anything contrary, whether in the Irish Constitution or in political Declarations and promises that might be tacked on to Lisbon.

No political Declarations or promises about commitments and even Protocols in future EU Treaties can change Lisbon or the supremacy of the EU Court of Justice in interpreting that Treaty’s provisions. These will have come into force well before any further EU Treaty or Treaties will even be negotiated.

If the Irish media and public opinion allow themselves to be taken in by the kind of presentational trickery Taoiseach Cowen and his Government are now planning, they could be making themselves the laughing stock of Europe.

A promise by the 27 EU Governments that each Member State can keep a Commissioner permanently under Lisbon is valueless in the light of that Treaty’s provision that from 2014 Member States will lose their right to decide who their national commissioner will be.

For under Lisbon (Article 17.7, amended Treaty on European Union) a Government’s present right to decide would be replaced by a right to make “suggestions” only, for the incoming Commission President to decide (See notes below elaborating on this point).

Under the present Nice Treaty arrangements Member States would retain permanently their right to decide who their national Commissioner is – a right which they would lose under Lisbon.

The Nice Treaty requires that the number of Commissioners should be fewer than the number of Member States from 2009, but by an unspecified number to be agreed unanimously.

This requirement of the present Nice-based Treaties can be abided by, and Ireland and the other States can keep a national Commissioner permanently, by the simple expedient of reducing the number of Commissioners from 27 to 26 and permitting whoever holds the job of “High Representative for EU Foreign and Security Policy” – currently Spain’s Javier Solana – to attend Commission meetings instead of being formally titled a Commissioner from that State.

This can and should be done under the Nice Treaty. This would mean that the Commission arrangements would continue virtually unchanged from the present. Ireland would retain a Commissioner permanently except in the unlikely event of an Irish person being given the even more important job of High Representative.

Taoiseach Cowen and his Government have deliberately sought to isolate and put pressure on their own people by failing to say after the Lisbon referendum last June that Ireland would not ratify Lisbon in view of the people’s No vote.

If the Taoiseach had done that, continued ratification by the other EU States would have been pointless, for Lisbon requires ratification by all 27 States before it can come into force for anyone.

Such a stand would have led to the Lisbon Treaty being opened and a chance created for a more democratic rather than less democratic EU through a better Treaty.

The prudent stand now for the Government and for the EU is to wait for the UK general election and the likely advent to office in Britain of a Conservative Government which will be committed to holding a referendum on Lisbon in the UK and recommending a No vote to it, as long as we Irish do not alter our No vote before then.

That would put paid to the attempted isolation of Ireland, which its own Government has connived at.

It would also give our fellow countrymen and women in Northern Ireland a chance to vote on this Treaty-cum-Constitution which would make them real citizens for the first time of an EU that would have the constitutional form of a supranational Federal State run on most undemocratic lines under Franco-German hegemony.

(Signed)

Anthony Coughlan
Secretary


A NOTE ON HOW LISBON WOULD TAKE AWAY IRELAND’S RIGHT TO DECIDE WHO ITS NATIONAL COMMISSIONER WOULD BE:

Under the current Nice Treaty arrangements (Treaty Establishing the European Community, Article 214.2) Member States have the right to “propose” a Commissioner every five years. This is effectively a right to decide, because while the others can ask the Member State in question to give them some other proposal if they do not like the person proposed, if that Member State declines to change its mind, its proposal will prevail, for otherwise it can refuse to accept the proposals of the others.

Article 214.2 TEC reads:

“The Council, acting by a qualified majority and by common accord with the nominee for the President shall adopt the list of other persons whom it intends to appoint as Members of the Commission, drawn up in accordance with the proposals made by each Member State.”

Under Lisbon (amended Treaty on European Union, Article 17.7) Commissioners would be appointed on the basis of “suggestions” from the Member States. The word “proposals” is thus replaced in Lisbon by “suggestions“.

Effectively under Lisbon, if it should come into force, it will be the incoming President of the Commission, interacting with the Member States, who will decide what “suggestions” are acceptable to him or not.

The President of the Commission will be effectively decided first by a special qualified majority vote of the Prime Ministers and Presidents – 20 out of 27 – taking account of who has the majority in the EU Parliament. They will propose their nominee to the European Parliament, who will then “elect” him or her. If the European Parliament does not elect the person nominated as President, the Prime Ministers and Presidents must propose another candidate within a month.

Then when it comes to the individual Commissioners, Lisbon states (Article 17.7 amended TEU) :

“The Council, by common accord with the president-elect, shall adopt the list of the other persons whom it proposes for appointment as members of the Commission. They shall be selected, on the basis of suggestions made by Member States, in accordance with the criteria set out in paragraph 3 …”

Paragraph 3 refers to the criteria of “their general competence and European commitment“.

The Commission President, the High Representative for Foreign and Security Policy and the other members of the Commission shall then

“be subject as a body to a vote of consent by the European Parliament”. If this consent is given “the Commission as a whole shall be appointed by the European Council, acting by a qualified majority”

In power-political terms the Big States in the EU can look with equanimity on the proposal that they should lose their national Commissioner for 10 years out of every 15 in the rotating system proposed by Lisbon, because they know that they will have the decisive say in appointing the new Commission President, who in turn will have the key role in deciding who ALL the Commissioners will be, based on mere “suggestions” rather than proposals from the Member States.

It is unlikely that that the incoming Commission President will adopt “suggestions” that are uncongenial or unacceptable to the Big States who will have been crucial in his or her own appointment.

Lisbon would thus endow the incoming Commission President with powers very similar to those of a Prime Minister at national level – the right to decide what “suggestions” from Member States are acceptable to him, so giving him the right to decide his “Commissioners/Ministers“, the right to allocate whatever jobs he likes to the Commissioners and the right to obtain their resignation and replacement at any time.


A NOTE ON THE BIG STATE POWER-GRAB FOR CONTROL OF A POST-LISBON EUROPEAN UNION

This is shown by three specific proposals of the Lisbon Treaty:

a) Appointing the new permanent EU President as a plum job by agreement of the Prime Ministers and Presidents among themselves, without any democratic input from the EU’s peoples. The new President would replace the present rotating six-month EU presidencies and would chair the summit meetings of Prime Ministers and Presidents for a period of 2.5 years, renewable once.

b) Basing EU law-making post-Lisbon on population size instead of the present system of weighted votes. This would double Germany’s relative voting weight in making EU laws from the present 8% to 17%, increase France’s, Britain’s and Italy’s from their present 8% each to 12% each, and halve Ireland’s from 2% to 0.8%.

Lisbon would therefore allow 15 EU States to outvote 12 in making European laws, so long as as the 15 constitute 65% of the total EU population of 500 million or so. France and Germany between them already have one-third of the EU’s population.

c) (i) Removing the right of Member States to decide their own Commissioner and effectively giving that function to the incoming Commission President, who will be a creature of the Big States.

(ii) Reducing the number of Commissioners by one-third from 2014 – a proposal that can be abandoned by unanimous agreement under Lisbon.

First posted online at indymedia.ie

category national | eu | press release

Comment: The Irish Government has betrayed its people

DECLAN GANLEY AND JENS-PETER BONDE
Today , Thursday 11 December 2008 @ 09:13 CET

EUOBSERVER / COMMENT – The French president yesterday told the group leaders of the European parliament that he has made a deal with the Irish government to hold a second referendum in Ireland to ratify the Lisbon treaty first rejected on 12 June by 53 percent of Irish voters.

None of the representatives of the Irish people who voted No to the Lisbon Treaty were consulted by the Irish government before they struck a deal with the French Presidency. The Irish government has simply ignored the result of the referendum and betrayed those people who voted No in the majority.
Government ministers, including the prime minister, have been urging other countries to “isolate” Ireland by ratifying the treaties so the Irish could sweat it out and then change their mind.

And what do they deliver as concessions to the Irish voters? Not one single word to be changed in the treaty that was also rejected by the French and Dutch voters in referendums in 2005 when it went under the name of “Constitution”.

Not one word or legal obligation will be changed. The same content will simply be put in a new envelope, just as Valery Giscard d’Estaing said about the change from the Constitution to the Lisbon Treaty. But this time, not even the headline or the wording will be changed.
It is the same text that was rejected.

It is legally doubtful if it is possible to repeat a binding referendum on the same text in the same parliamentary period.

In the new envelope, there will be a lot of nice words in Declarations. They have not the slightest legal value. They will neither change anything in the treaties nor hinder the court in Luxembourg from deciding directly against whatever the Declarations say.

Then, they will have the promise of a commissioner from each member state. Fine. But the Irish commissioner will be picked by a majority of prime ministers and presidents in the EU. The Irish government can come up with “suggestions”, but other member states decide.

It would indeed be a concession if they were change the treaty and allow every member state to elect its own commissioner, and it would be democratic progress if we could elect our commissioner in direct elections together with the elections to the European Parliament.

The Irish government has simply given in and will not even insist on the right of Ireland to nominate its own commissioner.

Declan Ganley is president of Libertas and Jens-Peter Bonde is president of the EU Democrats and a member of the European Parliament from 1979-2008

Guess Who’s Coming To Dinner: Václav Klaus, Cohn-Bendit, Pöttering, Brian Crowley

Excerpts from the meeting between Václav Klaus, President of the Czech Republic, and members of the Conference of the Presidents of the European Parliament, Friday 5 December 2008, Prague Castle:

Daniel Cohn-Bendit MEP: I brought you a flag, which – as we heard – you have everywhere here at the Prague Castle. It is the flag of the European Union, so I will place it here in front of you.

It will be a tough Presidency. The Czech Republic will have to deal with the work directive and climate package. EU climate package represents less than what our fraction would wish for. It will be necessary to hold on to the minimum of that. I am certain that the climate change represents not only a risk, but also a danger for the future development of the planet. My view is based on scientific views and majority approval of the EP and I know you disagree with me. You can believe what you want, I don’t believe, I know that global warming is a reality.

Lisbon Treaty – I don’t care about your opinions on it. I want to know what you are going to do if the Czech Chamber of Deputies and the Senate approve it. Will you respect the will of the representatives of the people? You will have to sign it.

I want you to explain to me what is the level of your friendship with Mr Ganley from Ireland. How can you meet a person whose funding is unclear? You are not supposed to meet him in your function. It is a man whose finances come from problematic sources and he wants to use them to be funding his election campaign into the EP.

President Vaclav Klaus: I must say that nobody has talked to me in such a style and tone for the past 6 years. You are not on the barricades in Paris here. I thought that these manners ended for us 18 years ago but I see I was wrong. I would not dare to ask how the activities of the Greens are funded. If you are concerned about a rational discussion in this half an hour, which we have, please give the floor to someone else, Mr Chairman.

EU Parliament President Hans-Gert Pöttering: No, we have plenty of time. My colleague will continue, because anyone from the members of the EP can ask you whatever he likes. (to Cohn-Bendit:) Please continue.

President Vaclav Klaus: This is incredible. I have never experienced anything like this before.

Daniel Cohn-Bendit: Because you have not experienced me…

President Vaclav Klaus: This is incredible.

Daniel Cohn-Bendit: We have always had good talks with President Havel. And what will you tell me about your attitude towards the anti-discrimination law? I will gladly inform you about our funding.

Hans-Gert Pöttering: Brian Crowley, please.

Brian Crowley MEP: I am from Ireland and I am a member of a party in government. All his life my father fought against the British domination. Many of my relatives lost their lives. That is why I dare to say that the Irish wish for the Lisbon Treaty. It was an insult, Mr. President, to me and to the Irish people what you said during your state visit to Ireland. It was an insult that you met Declan Ganley, a man with no elected mandate. This man has not proven the sources from which his campaign was funded. I just want to inform you what the Irish felt. I wish you that you get the programme of your Presidency through and you will get through what European citizens want to see.

President Vaclav Klaus:  Thank you for this experience which I gained from this meeting. I did not think anything like this is possible and have not experienced anything like this for the past 19 years. I thought it was a matter of the past that we live in democracy, but it is post-democracy, really, which rules the EU.

You mentioned the European values. The most important value is freedom and democracy. The citizens of the EU member states are concerned about freedom and democracy, above all. But democracy and freedom are loosing ground in the EU today. It is necessary to strive for them and fight for them.

I would like to emphasize, above all, what most citizens of the Czech Republic feel, that for us the EU membership has no alternative. It was me who submitted the EU application in the year 1996 and who signed the Accession treaty in 2003. But the arrangements within the EU have many alternatives. To take one of them as sacrosanct, untouchable, about which it is not possible to doubt or criticize it, is against the very nature of Europe.

As for the Lisbon Treaty, I would like to mention that it is not ratified in Germany either. The Constitutional Treaty, which was basically the same as the Lisbon Treaty, was refused in referendums in other two countries. If Mr. Crowley speaks of an insult to the Irish people, then I must say that the biggest insult to the Irish people is not to accept the result of the Irish referendum. In Ireland I met somebody who represents a majority in his country. You, Mr. Crowley, represent a view which is in minority in Ireland. That is a tangible result of the referendum.

Brian Crowley MEP: With all respect, Mr. President, you will not tell me what the Irish think. As an Irishman, I know it best.

President Vaclav Klaus: I do not speculate about what the Irish think. I state the only measurable data which were proved by the referendum.

In our country the Lisbon Treaty is not ratified because our parliament has not decided on it yet. It is not the President’s fault. Let’s wait for the decision of both Chambers of the Parliament, that is the current phase of the ratification process in which the President plays no role whatsoever. I cannot sign the Treaty today, it is not on my table, it is up to the parliament to decide about it now. My role will come after the eventual approval of the Treaty in the Parliament. . .

Hans-Gert Pöttering: … In the conclusion – and I want to leave this room in good terms –  I would like to say that it is more than unacceptable, if you compare us, compare us with the Soviet Union. We are all deeply rooted in our countries and our constituencies. We are concerned about freedom and reconciliation in Europe, we are good willing, not naive.

President Vaclav Klaus: I did not compare you with the Soviet Union, I did not mention the word “Soviet Union”. I only said that I have not experienced such an atmosphere, such style of debate in the past 19 years in the Czech Republic, really.

First published on Indymedia.ie

What the Irish Government should now do on Lisbon

Submission to the Oireachtas Committee on Ireland’s Future in the European Union from The National Platform EU Research and Information Centre

(N.B. The four numbered headings below correspond to the four points of the Committee’s terms of reference)

1. The challenges facing Ireland following the Lisbon Treaty referendum result:

By voting No to the Lisbon Treaty on 12 June 2008 the majority of Irish voters rejected the proposal that they should change the Irish Constitution to allow the abolition of the present European Union and European Community which were established by the the 1992 Treaty of Maastricht, as amended, and their replacement by a legally new European Union, separate from and superior to its Member States, which would be established by the Lisbon Treaty, whose laws, acts and measures would thereafter have the force of law in the State.
The Irish people thereby rejected the attempt to establish a European  Union which would have the constitutional form of a supranational Federation, of which they would be made real citizens for the first time, just as the peoples of France and the Netherlands rejected a similar proposition when they voted No to the Treaty Establishing a Constitution for Europe in 2005.

Irish referendums are a form of direct legislation by the people

Irish referendums are a form of direct legislation in which the Irish people, who adopted their basic law or Constitution by direct referendum vote in 1937, decide to legislate or not to  amend that Constitution in subsequent referendums thereafter.  Last June’s referendum vote was a clear refusal by the people to assent to the constitutional revolution which had been presented to them for decision by the Government and Oireachtas in the 28th Amendment of the Constitution Bill, 2008.

Article 6 of the Constitution states that it is the right of the Irish people “in final appeal, to decide all questions of national policy.”  The matter at issue in the Lisbon Treaty vote was not just a question of national policy; it proposed to alter the fundamentals of the Constitution itself, as the Constitition of a sovereign State, by turning the Republic of Ireland into a constituent element of a supranational European Federation, a political Union which went far beyond the primarily economic European Community and European Union that Ireland is at present a member of.

The Irish people decided to reject Lisbon by clear majority vote. All Yes-side voters who are democrats should respect that vote and abide by it.   Any attempt to put the same Lisbon Treaty to the Irish people again with a view to reversing last June’s vote would almost certainly be in violation of Article 6 of the Constitution and would be open to consitutional challenge in the Courts.
“Respecting” the voters’ decision means abiding by it, not working to overturn it

Although the Government says that it respects the voters’ decision, which means that it should abide by it, all the signs are that Taoiseach Mr Brian Cowen and his colleagues, from the moment the trend of the ballot papers was evident at the referendum count, have set out to work with other EU Governments to overturn this democratic result in a second Lisbon referendum, just as occurred when voters rejected the Treaty of Nice in June 2001.

If Taoiseach Mr Brian Cowen and his colleagues had really respected the voters’ decision, they would have said to their EU colleagues that Ireland could not and would not ratify the Lisbon Treaty in view of the referendum vote. Further ratifications by other EU States would therefore have been pointless, as the Treaty can come into force only if all 27 signatory States ratify it, and there would have been no point in other Member States going ahead with ratifying the Treaty in the light of such a decision by Ireland.

This is what British Foreign Secretary David Milliband was referring to when he said on the day after the Irish vote that the future of the Lisbon Teaty was in the hands of Irish Taoiseach Brian Cowen.
At lunchtime on the day of the referendum count, while the ballots were still being sorted although their trend was clear, Foreign Minister Micheal Martin stated on RTE that “of course the ratifications by other countries will continue.” He would not have said this without the agreement of the Taoiseach.  That same morning Commission President Barroso spoke privately with the Taoiseach on the phone, after which he said that ratifications by the other EU States would  continue despite the Irish vote. This presumably reflected assurances which the Taoiseach gave him that the No vote last June did not mean that Ireland would not be ratifying Lisbon.

So while the Taoiseach, Foreign Minister Martin and other Government Ministers vehemently protest that they “respect” the people’s vote, they simultaneously refuse to accept the decision of the voters by telling their EU colleagues that Ireland would not therefore be ratifying the Lisbon Treaty. They have thereby encouraged the other EU States  to continue with their ratifications on the assumption that the Irish Government and Oireachtas  would  induce Irish voters to reverse their 12 June vote and ratify the Treaty in a second referendum, as occurred previously with the Nice Treaty.
This is not “respect” by Government Ministers for the decision of the voters. It is rather total disrepect. It amounts in effect to the Irish Government aligning itself with the governments of other EU countries,  and in particular those countries that are most committed to the Lisbon Treaty – Germany and France – and the Brussels Commission, against its own people in an attempt to bring about the constitutional revolution embodied in Lisbon, a revolution which would destroy their people’s national democracy and independence as citizens of a sovereign State.

A dilemma of the Government’s own making

If Taoiseach Brian Cowen and his colleagues find themselves next month to be the government of one of only a handful of EU Member States that have not ratified Lisbon, this will be entirely due to the unwillingness of the Taoiseach and his Government to respect the Irish people’s referendum vote on Lisbon. It will be due to their de facto efforts to  reverse that result in concert with President Sarkozy, Chancellor Merkel, Commission President Barroso and others.  This is truly a constitutionally awesome course for any Irish Government to take.

The suggestion that the other EU Member States are unwilling to open issues of concern in the Lisbon Treaty, or to “re-negotiate” its contents, is a spurious one, for the Treaty cannot come into force without Ireland ratifying it. If Ireland does not ratify, the Treaty falls.    All the issues of the Treaty’s contents  would still remain in play however, to be dealt with in the normal toing-and-froing of EU politics over the years or in further EU treaties at some future date.

The Lisbon Treaty and the EU Constitution which it embodies is a bad treaty for Ireland and for the EU, for the reasons publicly canvassed with voters in last June’s referendum and which were set our in our preliminary submission  to the Oireachtas Sub-Committee of 22 October (see below).

By refusing to ratify the Lisbon Constitution Ireland is also upholding its rejection by the peoples of France and the Netherlands, founder members of the original EEC – for the content of Lisbon is 96% the same as the original constitutional treaty that they voted No to.  By rejecting Lisbon and by standing by that rejection, Ireland is also upholding the existing European Union and European Community founded on the 1992 Maastricht Treaty as amended. It is refusing to allow the Prime Ministers and Presidents of the majority of EU countries to foist on the peoples of Europe a new and profoundly undemocratic European Union, in the constitutional form of a Federation, when opinion polls show that the peoples of most Member States do not want this and would reject it if they were given the opportunity of voting on it.

That this would be the case was admitted by French President Sarkozy when he stated at a meeting of group leaders in the European Parliament last year that “France was just ahead of all the other countries in voting No. It would happen in all Member States if they have a referendum. There is a cleavage between people and governments … A referendum now would bring  Europe into danger. There will be no Treaty if we had a referendum in France, which would again be followed by a referendum in the UK.” (EUobserver, 14 November 2007)

The EU Prime Ministers and Presidents act against their own peoples

That is the reason why the Prime Ministers and Presidents of the EU Member States gave a commitment to one another when they signed the Lisbon Constitution to avoid referendums on it at all costs. It is why the French and Dutch Governments refused to hold referendums on Lisbon even though it was virtually identical with the constitutional treaty their peoples had voted No to in 2005.  It is why British Prime Minister Gordon Brown abandoned his Labour Party’s  commitment, and his predecessor’s promise,  to hold  a referendum on an EU constitution in the UK. It is why the Danish Government is avoiding a referendum in Denmark even though referendums on major EU treaties have traditionally been required there.

A radically altered EU built on such undemocratic foundations would be inherently unstable and unable to endure.  That is why Ireland would be  upholding the best ideals of the European project by resisting the pressures  from the bigger EU States to re-run the Lisbon Treaty referendum with a view to reversing the majority decision of  Irish voters last summer.

By resisting such pressures Ireland would simultaneously be upholding the wishes of the majority of Europe’s peoples for a more democratic, less centralised and more transparent EU, where decisions for some 500 million people would not be taken by tiny numbers of people, in the European Commission, Council of Ministers and Court of Justice, bodies that  are irremoveable as collectivities and whose members are  safeguarded from intervention by the voters.
Ireland would thereby be forcing a return to the principles of the 2001 Laeken Declaration which recognised the democratic deficiencies  of the present EU,  before the process of reform was hijacked by the Euro-federalists who drew up the EU Constitution in an attempt to foist on us a European Union that would be profoundly more undemocratic and  less responsive to voters than the EU we have today.

What the Irish Government should now do on Lisbon

To meet the challenges facing Ireland in the EU following the Lisbon referendum therefore, the Irish Government should do the following:-

a)  Abide by the voters’ decision of last June in reality rather than in  pretence,  and inform the other EU States that Ireland will not be ratifying the Lisbon Treaty in its own interests and those of the EU as a whole;

b) Point out forcefully to its fellow EU governments that the rejection of the EU Constitution and the Federalist EU that it embodies by the peoples of France, the Netherlands and Ireland – and its likely rejection in several other countries if their peoples were allowed a vote on it – shows that Lisbon is a bad treaty for the EU as a whole, and that the EU leaders should therefore begin a process of consultation with their citizens on the kind of Europe their peoples really want, and that they should go back to the principles of the Laeken Declaration as a guide to this;
c) Point out to its EU fellow governments that the British Conservative Party is committed to putting Britain’s ratification of Lisbon “on ice” in the event of that party being elected to office before that Treaty is ratified, holding a UK-wide referendum on it and recommending a No vote to it, and  that it would therefore be prudent of the EU as a whole  to await the outcome of the UK general election, which is due in little over a year, before trying to foist an unwanted Lisbon Constitution on the peoples of the UK.   The Government should point out that such a referendum would also give our fellow-countrymen and women in Northern Ireland an opportunity to express their views on this hugely important treaty;

d)  Recommend to its fellow EU governments that it would be prudent also to await the outcome of the Czech Constitutional Court and Senate proceedings, and the Grauweiler constitutional challenge to Lisbon before the German Constitutional Court, before doing anything further in this matter;

e) If, as seems to be the case, there is now general consensus among the EU Prime Ministers and Presidents  that it is not politically practical,  under either Nice or Lisbon,  to  take away from each Member State  their right to have one of their nationals on the Commission, the  Government should propose that the most effective way of achieving  this while abiding by the provisions of the Nice Treaty, would be to have 26 instead of 27 Commissioners, with a place and voice on the Commission to be given to the High Representative for Foreign and Security Policy, instead of having a formal Commissioner from the country whose national holds this office.

2. Ireland’s future in the EU… Our influence within the European institutions

Ireland should remain a fully committed member of the present European Commmunity and European Union. At the same time the Government should  advocate a genuine democratic reform programme for the EU,  following debate and discussion with its own citizens and with other EU States, especially smaller ones, in the process of consulation suggested in Point (b) above.

Advance a programme of democratic reform of the EU

Such a process of genuine EU democratic reform could include, inter alia: (i) the election of Commissioners from each Member State, with the Commission’s  legislative programme being presented beforehand to National Parliaments each year; (ii) changing the Council of Ministers voting system so that European laws could be adopted only if at least three-quarters of  Member States covering at least half of the EU’s population were in favour; (iii) abandoning the idea of a special code of fundamental rights for EU citizens as distinct from national citizens and requiring the EU institutions to abide instead by the  European Convention of Human Rights; (iv) reducing drastically the burden of EU laws and repatriating appropriate law-making areas from Brussels to the Member States as envisaged in the Laeken Declaration.

Ireland’s influence in the EU institutions would be drastically reduced by the provision of the Lisbon Treaty which would take away from EU Member States the right to “propose” and decide who its national Commissioner was, and replace that by the right to make “suggestions” only for the incoming Commission President to decide.  Ireland’s influence would also be drastically reduced by the Treaty’s proposal to halve Ireland’s voting weight in EU law-making on the Council of Ministers from 2% to 0.8%, while Germany’s voting weight would simultaneously increase from 8% to 17%, France’s from 8% to 13% and Britain’s and Italy’s from 8% each to 12% each.

3. Enhancing the role of the Houses of the Oireachtas in EU affairs:

The flood of EC/EU legislation has these days become so great that two-thirds or more of all legal acts in EU Member States now emanate from Brussels. This means that national Parliamentary Scrutiny Committees can give an average of only a few minutes time, if that, to each European legal act. This means that most legal acts get little or no consideration  or discussion at National Parliament level, not to mind amongst the general public.   Important matters can go through without consideration or debate,  whose adverse social consequences only show themselves later when damage may be done.

This is outrageous from the democratic point of view and gives rise to public hostility and cynicism regarding the whole process of European law-making. The only remedy would seem to be to institute fundamental democratic reforms in the EC/EU which would reduce the  aforesaid flood of European laws.  That in turn would require an EU Reform Treaty that is very different in character from the miscalled “Lisbon Reform Treaty”. The comments on this matter by Dr Roman Herzog, former President of Germany and former President of the German Constitutional Court, are relevant:

” It is true that we are experiencing an ever greater, inappropriate centralisation of powers away from the Member States and towards the EU. The German Ministry of Justice has compared the legal acts adopted by the Federal Republic of Germany between 1998 and 2004 with those adopted by the European Union in the same period. Results: 84 percent come from Brussels, with only 16 percent coming originally from Berlin … Against the fundamental principle of the separation of powers, the essential European legislative functions lie with the members of the executive … The figures stated by the German Ministry of Justice make it quite clear. By far the large majority of legislation valid in Germany is adopted by the German Government in the Council of Ministers, and not by the German Parliament … And so the question arises whether Germany can still be referred to unconditionally as a parliamentary democracy at all, because the separation of powers as a fundamental constituting principle of the constitutional order in Germany has been cancelled out for large sections of the legislation applying to this country … The proposed draft Constitution does not contain the possibility of restoring individual competencies to the national level as a centralisation brake. Instead, it counts on the same one-way street as before, heading towards ever greater centralisation … Most people have a fundamentally positive attitude to European integration. But at the same time, they have an ever increasing feeling that something is going wrong, that an untransparent, complex, intricate, mammoth institution has evolved, divorced from the factual problems and national traditions, grabbing ever greater competencies and areas of power; that the democratic control mechanisms are failing: in brief, that it cannot go on like this.”
–    Former German President  Dr Roman Herzog and former president of the German Constitutional Court, article on the EU Constitution, Welt Am Sonntag, 14 January 2007

It is also desirable from the democratic standpoint that there should be national parliamentary input to the EU legislative process before Ministers go to Council of Ministers meetings in Brussels, so that they can be given guidance or even parliamentary policy mandates beforehand, at least on important matters. This would enable national parliamentarians to have some real input into the adoption of government policy-positions on EU matters before they come for decision on the Council of Ministers.  This is allowed for in the Danish EU Parliamentary Scrutiny Committee.  It is desirable in Ireland also, although Government Ministers and senior civil servants would very likely resist it.

4. Improving Irish public understanding of the EU:

Public understanding of the EU and issues relating to it would be significantly advanced if Euro-federalists and advocates of EU political union and fuller European integration generally, did not resort so readily to abuse and misrepresentation of people who wish to defend national democracy and national independence in face of the pressures from EU integration to reduce or abandon these.

One egregious and topical example of the kind of misrepresentation that is so common has been the attempt by supporters of the Lisbon Treaty to make out that the threat of conscription into a future EU army was a key theme in No-side propaganda during last June’s Lisbon referendum.
Mr Tony Brown and Foreign Minister Micheal Martin “spinning” tales about conscription to a post-Lisbon EU army.

The undersigned recalls that the first person to raise this scare was Mr Tony Brown in a letter to the Irish Times some months before the Lisbon referendum. In this letter Mr Brown condemned what he said were likely to be the exaggerations and false-claims of No-side people, as illustrated by their putting around this scare-story about conscription to an EU army in previous EU referendums.  I was actively involved in all of these referendums and have no recollection of this theme being pushed by No-side advocates at any time in the past. I can say with absolute certitude that it was not made an issue in the Lisbon Treaty  referendum by No-side campaigners either.

I was personally in touch with virtually all the No-side groups in the Lisbon referendum and saw most of the items of literature which they produced. None of them sought to make supposed conscription into an EU army an issue, nor do I recollect seeing any slogan or piece of No-side literature which made this particular point.

What did happen was that shortly before the referendum Foreign Minister Micheal Martin made a public statement on TV repeating Mr Tony Brown’s earlier statement about this obviously lurid  allegation being an example of alleged No-side untruths and misleading propaganda.  This immediately gave the statement metaphorical “legs”, as it were.  People who did not know anything about an EU army – which is in fact envisaged in the Lisbon Treaty, titled “a common defence”,  as distinct from “a mutual defence”, which is something the Treaty also envisages –  may have said to themselves: perhaps there is something in this notion of conscription after all if the  Foreign Minister is getting so hot and bothered  about it!

It was undoubtedly primarily Yes-side people who were responsible for this nonsense, not the much-maligned, much-misrepresented and much insulted No-side proponents, whose genuine concerns about the Lisbon Constitution have been so contemptuously dismissed by so many Yes-side spokesmen.  Many Yes-side spokesmen in Ireland have also done their best to create the impression abroad that Irish voters rejected the Lisbon Treaty because of fears about conscription to an EU army, which clearly were not in the treaty.  They have thereby sought  deliberately to misrepresent and denigrate the democratic vote of their fellow-countrymen.

The failure of the Referendum Commission to carry out its statutory duty

When it comes to advancing public understanding of the EU and EU Treaties, the Oireachtas Sub-Committee should also not ignore in its deliberations the failure amounting to  constitutional delinquency of the supposely independent Referendum Commission.

The statutory Referendum Commission was given over ¤5 million of public money to carry out its function under the 1998 Referendum Act of  explaining  to voters the significance of the constitutional amendment they were voting on and its text, yet it significantly failed to  do this,  for otherwise the No vote would almost certainly have been higher.

What the Referendum Commission did do was to summarise and regurgitate much of the contents of the highly tendentious booklet on the so-called “Lisbon Reform Treaty”  which was published by the Department of Foreign Affairs. This booklet purported to be a summary of the main provisions of Lisbon, but it completely failed to explain the significance of the constitutional amendment, why it was being proposed and why the Constitution had to be changed to permit Lisbon to come into force, and what the implications of adopting it would be.  Yet this is what the 1998 Referendum Act required the Referendum Commission to do.
Thus the Commission failed to explain to citizens the first two key sentences of the proposed Constitutional Amendment set out in the 28th Amendment of the Constitution Bill.   This made clear that the new European Union which would be established by the Lisbon Treaty would differ constitutionally in profoundly important ways from the present EU that is founded on the Maastricht Treaty.  The Referendum Commission failed even to mention in its publicity material that Lisbon would abolish the European Communities which Ireland joined in 1973 and which are explicitly mentioned in the Constitution, so that it would leave the Atomic Energy Community (EURATOM) as the sole European community in being.

It failed to inform citizens that Lisbon proposed to take away from Member States the right to decide who their national commissioner would be in the ten years out of every 15 when Lisbon provides that they may have a fellow-national on the Commission.  The Referendum Commission omitted many other key facts about the Treaty and the Constitutional  Amendment in its publicity material.  At the same time its chairman made two interventions in relation to disputed matters in the debate, something which had never been done by previous Commissions, in one of these interventions getting his facts clearly wrong.

The Referendum Commission, conflicts of interest and questionable tendering procedures

The Referendum Commission sought legal advice from solicitor firm A and L Goodbody, although this firm represented some Yes-side interests. It relied on Murray Consultants for printing and public relations, the contact person for whom appeared on the Commission’s press releases  and was a former press director of the Fianna Fail Party.
Although the Referendum Act provides that the Commission may engage such consultants and advisers as it sees fit, the tender for ¤3.5 million of marketing and advertising for the Lisbon campaign  was advertised three weeks before the  Referendum Commission itself was called into being. The request for tender stated that the tenders were to be submitted to the Department of Foreign Affairs, even though the holding of referendums and the establishment of the Referendum Commission is a matter for the Department of the Environment and Local Government. No explanation has been provided for the involvement of the Department of Foreign Affairs and no confirmation has been given that the choice of Murray Comsultants was that of the Referendum Commission itself and not the Department of Foreign Affairs. There are several other aspects of the Referendum Commission’s work during the Lisbon referendum which are disquieting from a democratic point of view. It is to be hoped that these will be thoroughly probed when the Commission makes its statutory report to the Oireachtas, as must be done by mid-December.

Ensuring that the Referendum Commission abides by its terms of reference and does a proper job in explaining the significance of the constitutional amendment to citizens is clearly fundamental to improving public understanding of the EU and its importance for Ireland’s future. Such understanding is never more important than when the people are being invited to change their Constitution to ensure the superiority of EU law or not.

Appended below is our preliminary submission made to the Oireachtas Sub-committee  on Ireland’s Future in the EU on 22 October 2008.

(Signed)

Anthony Coughlan
Secretary

The scandal of the Irish Referendum Commission in the Lisbon Treaty referendum

(N.B. This press release is being posted to all TDs, Senators and MEPs, to the members of the High Court and Supreme Court, the Referendum Commission and  the Catholic Hierarchy, and to the media and leading activists on the Yes and No sides in the Lisbon Treaty referendum, in the interest of public information. Acknowledgment is made to the web-site posting by Mr Patrick Egan for the information below on the role of  A&L Goodbody Solicitors and Murray Consultants.)The sheer dereliction of duty of the statutory Referendum Commission during the Lisbon Treaty referendum will assuredly be found shocking by future historians of our times.

The Oireachtas voted the Commission over ¤5 million to enable it do its job of informing citizens what the Lisbon referendum was about. Rarely can public money have been spent to such ill effect.  The Commission  spent ¤2.7 on media advertising.   It paid An Post ¤1 million to deliver 2.2 million information handbooks to households. In the circumstances it was a democratic miracle that the majority of Irish voters rejected the proposal to amend the Irish Constitution. If the Commission had done the job it was statutorily required to do, the No-side majority would almost certainly have been much larger, for people would have  learned of the constitutional revolution which Lisbon proposed, instead of being kept in ignorance of it.

The Commission Chairman and its members:

The Government appoints the  chairman of the Referendum Commission on an ad hoc basis for every referendum.   For Lisbon it chose High Court Justice Mr Iarfhlaith O’Neill as Commission chairman.  It is a legitimate career expectation of High Court judges that they will be appointed to the Supreme Court or the European Court in Luxembourg. The chairman of the Referendum Commission during the Amsterdam Treaty and Nice Treaty referendums was retired Chief Justice T.A.Finlay, for whom prospects of judicial promotion were irrelevant.The regular members of the Commission are the Clerk of the Dail (Mr Kieran Coughlan), the Clerk of the Seanad (Ms Deirdre Lane), the Ombudsman (Ms Emily O’Reilly) and the Comptroller and Auditor-General (Mr John Purcell).

Rubber-stamping its Chairman’s remarks instead of speaking with a collective voice:

The Referendum Commission is statutorily bound to act as a collectivity. The statements it issues should be approved by all its members. There is no provision in the Referendum Act which permits the Chairman to arrogate to himself the job of “clarifying” or explaining contentious issues of the referendum debate.  Previous Referendum Commissions never attempted to do anything like that.  Yet at two press conferences during the Lisbon referendum Mr Justice O’Neill  took it upon himself to “clarify”, as he put it,  contentious issues dealing with the implications of the Lisbon Treaty for such matters as company taxation, abortion, neutrality, a WTO veto etc., where political and legal judgements about what could happen if Lisbon was ratified were closely intertwined.Judge O’Neill’s “clarifications” in each case lent heavily towards the Yes-side interpretation of these matters and were fulsomely welcomed by Government and other Yes-side spokesmen.  Because of the impromptu nature of oral statements the other Commission members could not stand over everything said  by Judge O’Neill on these occasions.  They thereby failed in their duty to express at all times an agreed collective view. They must have been embarrassed when their Chairman was unable to answer a question on the Treaty at his second “clarificatory” press event.

On Tuesday 13 May Judge O’Neill made a clear error of fact when he stated on RTE that the Laval/Vaxholm judgement of the EU Court of Justice was given before and not after the Lisbon Treaty was signed. The implication of this was that this judgement had been taken into account by the signatories of the Treaty and there was therefore no case  for rejecting the Treaty because  its framers had not known of it.  In fact this Court judgement was given five days after the Lisbon Treaty was signed, so that it  could not have been taken into account or responded to by the signatory States.  This was an important referendum issue for some No-side campaigners.

Mr Justice O’Neill’s mistake thus helped one side as against the other. Future Referendum Commissions should veto any attempts at such solo flights by their chairman and follow the sound procedures set out in previous referendums by retired Chief Justice Finlay.

Conflicts of interest on legal advice and public relations consultants:

The Referendum Commission paid  ¤47,000 for legal advice, mostly from solicitor firm A&L Goodbody. It paid ¤358,000 for printing and design of publications, part of the design being done by DMH, a company linked to Murray Consultants, public relations advisers.  Ms Olivia Buckley, one of the two Murray Consultants executives dealing with the Referendum Commission contract, whose name appeared as a contact on Referendum Commission press releases, was, for a period of five years up to the May 2007 general election, the press director of the Fianna Fail Party. She is  a native of Ferbane, Co Offaly and has been closely associated with Taoiseach Mr Brian Cowen.  A&L Goodbody are one of the patrons of Chambers Ireland, an organisation that campaigned for a Yes vote in the referendum, as well as acting as legal adviser for IBEC, another organisation that campaigned for a Yes voteThese conflicts of interest might be overlooked if one could be satisfied that the Referendum Commission itself selected Murray Consultants and A&L Goodbody.  Section 4 of the Referendum Act 1998 provides that the Referendum Commission may from time to time engage such consultants and advisers as it considers necessary or expedient for the performance of its functions, thereby clearly envisaging that any such consultants or advisors will be selected and appointed by the Referendum Commission itself.

The Government’s  own E-tenders website, however, showed that the request for tender for ¤3.5 million of ‘Marketing, Communications and Project Management Consultancy services for the Referendum Commission’ was published on 19 February 2008, three weeks before the Referendum Commission was called into being on 6 March 2008. Disturbingly, the request for tender stated that tenders were to be submitted to the Department of Foreign Affairs, even though the holding of referendums and the establishment of the Referendum Commission is a matter for the Department of the Environment  and Local Government. No explanation has been provided for the involvement of the Department of  Foreign Affairs and no confirmation has been given that the choice of Murray Consultants was that of the Referendum Commission itself and not the Department of Foreign Affairs.

In relation to the selection of A&L Goodbody Solicitors as legal advisers to the Referendum Commission, there was not even a public tender process carried out, whether by the Referendum Commission itself or by any government department on its behalf. No information has been disclosed as to when A&L Goodbody Solicitors were selected, who selected them and indeed how they came to be selected.Under the Referendum Act the Referendum Commission  is required to furnish, within six months of the referendum, a report to the Minister for the Environment and Local Government on the carrying out of its functions. The Minister for the Environment and Local Government is to lay this report before the Dail. It is to be hoped that the serious questions relating to the appointment of the Commission’s legal advisers and PR people, and the validity of the tendering process, will be addressed in this report or else raised in the Dail.

The most sensible, effective and probably the cheapest way for the Referendum Commission to get legal advice on an EU Treaty if it needs that, is to hire two top-rank authorities on EU law, one who favours a Yes vote and the other who favours a No, and when they cannot agree on a matter of legal interpretation, the members of the Commission should make up their own minds.  If the disagreement on interpretation persists among themselves, it should inform the public of that fact.  This is the way in which the function of providing the public with accurate information on contentious issues is carried out by statutory bodies similar to the Referendum Commission elsewhere, for example in Denmark.

The Referendum Commission’s profound failure to carry out its statutory function of explaining the actual Constitutional  Amendment and its text to Irish voters:

The poor quality of the legal advice adopted by the Referendum Commission is shown by the fact that the Commission substantially  failed to carry out its statutory duty under the Referendum Act establishing it.Irish referendums are a form of direct legislation in which citizens are legislating on a Bill to amend the Constitution and  deciding whether to adopt or reject that Bill. In the case of the Lisbon Treaty, the proposed constitutional amendment was set out in the 28th Amendment of the Constitution Bill 2008.

To help Irish citizen-voters carry out their legislative task the Referendum Act imposes on the Referendum Commission the statutory obligation “to prepare a statement or statements containing a general explanation of the subject matter of the proposal (i.e. the proposal to amend the Constitution) and of the text thereof in the relevant Bill and any other information relating to those matters that the Commission considers appropriate“.

In view of this clear injunction from the Oireachtas it is surprising that neither the Referendum Commission’s web-site when it was first set up, nor the Handbook which it sent  to  all voters,  gave the text of the proposal to amend the Irish Constitution, or even a summary of it. The  text was put on the web-site following private representations by this organisation, but no change was made to the Handbook.

The Commission’s Handbook to Voters was significantly misleading –  by omission  –  in that it stated, on Page 2: “You are being asked to decide whether or not to change the Constitution of Ireland to allow Ireland to ratify the Treaty of Lisbon.” But that was only part of the decision Irish voters were asked to make on 12 June 2008 in the proposed Constitutional Amendment.

The first sentence of the Constitutional Amendment which was set out in the 28th Amendment of the Constitution Bill made clear that the Amendment’s purpose was for the people to give permission to the State to ratify the Treaty of Lisbon AND to “be a member of the European Union established by virtue of that Treaty.”

However, the  Referendum Commission’s explanatory material  made no reference whatever  to the latter part of this sentence, despite its obvious importance.  Nor did it make any reference to the important sentence following, which would give the “laws, acts and measures” of the proposed  new post-Lisbon European Union constitutional supremacy over the Irish Constitution and laws.
The following are the first two subsections  – the centrally important ones  – of the  English text of the Constitutional Amendment which was put before Irish voters on 12 June 2008 and which was “the subject matter of the proposal and text thereof in the relevant Bill” that it was the statutory duty of the Referendum Commission to explain to citizens:

“10:   The State may ratify the Treaty of Lisbon amending the Treaty on European Union and the Treaty establishing the European Community,  signed at Lisbon on the 13th day of December 2007, and  may be a member of the European Union established by virtue of that Treaty. (emphasis added)

11:   No provision of this Constitution invalidates laws enacted, acts done or measures adopted by the State that are necessitated by membership of the European Union referred to in subsection 10 of this section, or prevents laws enacted, acts done or measures adopted by the said European Union or by institutions thereof, or by bodies competent under the treaties referred  to in this section, from having the force of law in the State.”

By omitting any reference in the explanatory material on its web-site or in its “Voters’ Handbook to “the European Union established by virtue of that Treaty”, viz. the Lisbon Treaty, the Referendum Commission failed fundamentally in its statutory duty of explaining  to voters the profound constitutional difference between the European Union which would be established by the Lisbon Treaty and  the European Union which we are currently members of and which was established by the 1993 Maastricht Treaty.

The Commission thus failed  to inform voters that the legally new European Union which would  be established by Lisbon would, unlike the present EU, have the constitutional form of a supranational Federation in which Ireland and the other EU Member States would have the constitutional status of regional or provincial states, and of which we would all be made real citizens for the first time, rather than our being just notional, symbolic or honorary EU “citizens” as at present.

One can only be a citizen of a State and all States must have citizens. As real citizens of the constitutionally new  European Union to be established by Lisbon  –  and in contrast to the current EU which was established by the 1993 Maastricht Treaty – we would owe the post-Lisbon EU the normal citizens’ duty of obedience to its laws and loyalty to its authority over and above our obedience and loyalty to the Irish State and the Irish Constitution and laws.

Lisbon would amend the existing European Treaties to make EU citizenship “additional to” rather than “complementary“  to national citizenship. We would still retain our Irish national  citizenship in the post-Lisbon Union,  but our new dual citizenship post-Lisbon would not be citizenship of two different States, but rather of the federal and regional-provincial levels of one State, as is normal in such classical Federations as the USA, Federal Germany, Switzerland and Canada.
The Irish Constitution would remain in being  after Lisbon – just as the various states of the Federal USA still retain their constitutions –  but it would be subordinate to the EU Constitution in any case of conflict between the two.  The rights and duties attaching to our  new EU citizenship would also be superior to the rights and duties attaching to our national citizenship in any case of conflict, because of the primacy of EU law over national law in the post-Lisbon Union, as indicated in the second sentence of the proposed Constitutional Amendment quoted above.

The present EU is not a State and does not have legal personality such that it can have citizens as members. The “European Union established by virtue of the Lisbon Treaty“, which is referred to in the first and most important sentence of the 28th Amendment of the Constitution Bill, would be quite otherwise in this and other respects.
These are major constitutional changes by any standard –  for the EU, for its Member States and for Irish citizens. Yet there was not a hint of them in the publicity material issued by the Referendum Commission: not a word about EU citizenship; not a word about Lisbon’s abolition of the European Community that we have been members of since 1973; not a word about Lisbon’s establishing a constitutionally new European Union, with legal personality for the first time, with  power to sign international treaties in all areas of its competence, with the same name but politically, legally and constitutionally with the form of a supranational  European Federation –  a very different entity altogether from the present EU.

The result? . . . Concealment from  the Irish people of  the constitutional implications of what they were voting on – by the very body which was  set up by the Oireachtas to inform them!

One can understand that the Government and Yes-side proponents  would wish to keep these major constitutional changes which would be made by the Lisbon Treaty  from the attention of Irish voters. But for the Referendum Commission to say nothing about them in its publicity material was a shocking delinquency.  It could have had dire constitutional results for this and future generations of Irish people if Irish voters had voted Yes – not  to  speak of  their implications for the peoples of Europe, who are being denied  referendums on this profound political and constitutional change  by private agreement among  their Prime Ministers and Presidents at their October 2007 summit meeting.

Positively misleading statements in the Referendum Commission’s publicity material on the mode of appointment of European Commissioners under Lisbon:

The  Lisbon Treaty provides that Ireland’s present right to “propose“  and decide its national Commissioner, and in effect to have that proposal accepted by the other Member States if their proposals are to be accepted by Ireland (Art. 214, current TEC), would be replaced by a right to make “suggestions“  regarding a name, for the incoming Commission President to decide (Art.17.7, amended TEU).  Member States would thus lose their present right to decide who their national Commissioners would be.  In other words, the Lisbon Treaty, if ratified,  would replace a bottom-up process for appointing  European Commissioners by a top-down one.

The Referendum Commission deliberately concealed this important  change, which would undoubtedly alarm some voters. Its Handbook to Voters  stated on page 5 that  “At present, each Member State nominates one member of the Commission“  and then goes on to say: “The right to nominate a Commissioner will rotate among the Member States on an equal basis.”

The use of the same word “nominate”  to describe the  mode of appointment of  European Commissioners  pre-Lisbon and post-Lisbon was quite misleading and concealed from Irish voters the fact that the Lisbon Treaty proposes a significant change in the mode of appointing a fellow-national as an EU Commissioner.

This misleading nature of the phrase “right to nominate” was brought privately to the Referendum Commission’s attention by the undersigned when it first appeared on the Commission’s web-site, but that led to no change. The same misleading statement  later appeared in the Referendum Commission’s Handbook posted to voters.

(Signed)

Anthony Coughlan
Secretary
The National Platform EU Research and Information Centre
24 Crawford Avenue
Dublin 9
Web-site:  nationalplatform.org
Tel.: 01-830579

1 September 2008

Minister Dick Roche: “The People Have Spoken”

You may find of  interest the remarks below of Mr Dick Roche TD  when a backbencher in 2001  and before he was promoted to Minister for Europe, regarding the proposal to re-run the Nice referendum.

They provide a piquant contrast to some of his recent statements.

The voter turnout in the 2001 Nice referendum was 35%,  in contrast to the  majority turnout in the 12 June Lisbon referendum.

“THE IRISH PEOPLE HAVE SPOKEN.”

Mr Dick Roche TD on why it would be a “democratic affront” to re-run the Nice Treaty referendum without making changes to the Treaty… spoken when he was a Dail backbencher in 2001  and before he was made Minister for Europe

“It is foolhardy to talk about another referendum at this stage unless something fundamental changes. To attempt to rerun a referendum as a means of reversing the democratic decision taken by the people would be rightly regarded as an affront. Something fundamental will have to be changed in the Nice treaty before we can even contemplate putting it before the people again.”

– Dail Debates, Vol. 358, pp. 1058-1061, 21 June 2001)

_________

Below are some further excerpts from the same Dail speech of Mr Roche, backbencher)

_________

 

“So far as the Nice Treaty is concerned, the Irish people have spoken and, like it or lump it, the Commission and its President have to accept it. They should do so with more good grace than they have shown in the recent past?

The Nice Treaty, no matter what its good intentions, is a document that has been democratically tested in only one Member State, and that is Ireland. It failed to meet the democratic test in this nation. It is an arrogance for any politician, either here or any Commissioner in Europe, to ignore the fundamental fact that the Irish people have spoken with some clarity on the matter. Yet last night the President of the Commission suggested that somehow or other the Irish people’s will can be undone. If the Commission, its leaders or the Governments of other European states decide to sweep democracy aside, we must ask on what basis is the future of Europe to be built?

Over the past two days I attended a meeting of the interim European Security and Defence Assembly. I was amazed and gratified in equal measure at the response by European parliamentarians from 28 different European nations to the Irish referendum.  It was an interesting and extraordinary eye-opener. There was no finger-wagging or suggestion that our people had been wrong or were confused; rather there was a degree of admiration for the decision the Irish had made. Speakers from the United Kingdom to Slovenia to Greece spoke on the issue. They indicated their support for the right of the Irish people to make a decision on this matter. They were by no means all Euro-sceptics. Speakers from a number of countries both within and outside the Union indicated that the Irish people by its vote reflected a common view and concern that now exists both within the EU and in those states most proximate to the EU. Members from the EU states who contributed directly in the debate or who spoke privately to the Irish delegation members indicated that it was their view – I made an effort to do a straw poll  – that referenda on the Nice Treaty as it currently stands, if held in other member states, would meet with the same public response as in Ireland.

There is something distinctly odd about democratic states attempting to take decisions that are out of line with the sentiment of their citizens. The gulf that exists between the citizens of Europe and the institutions, the commissioners and the bureaucrats who are now driving the Union, is nowhere more visible than in the area of peace, security and defence. In the run-up to the Nice Treaty the European Council decided, quite incredibly, that somehow the European Union could now take charge of peace, security and defence issues across the continent of Europe both within and outside the Union?

The issues raised by the rejection of the Nice Treaty in the referendum are of a fundamental nature.  I have listened with some dismay to today’s debate and the debate that has taken place in the weeks since the referendum. Many in the political leadership of the nation are more focused on making a political point about the referendum than on truly addressing the core issues behind the judgement passed by the people?

It is foolhardy to talk about another referendum at this stage unless something fundamental changes. To attempt to rerun a referendum as a means of reversing the democratic decision taken by the people would be rightly regarded as an affront. Something fundamental will have to be changed in the Nice treaty before we can even contemplate putting it before the people again?
The Nice treaty is a complex document which intends to achieve complex things.  It was sold to the Irish people as a means of providing for the enlargement of the European  Union. Last night Mr Prodi made it very clear that was not what the treaty  is about. He did not, however, make clear precisely what it is about. He was saying, therefore, that the enlargement process could be achieved without the Nice treaty.

I mentioned the assembly I attended yesterday and the considerable interest shown in the decision of the Irish people.  Some thought-provoking contributors indicated that the opportunity afforded the Irish people should also be offered to the citizens of other member states. Maybe then Europe would get a clear message about what the people of Europe expect in the coming years.”

– Dick Roche, 2001

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