Lack of information leads to rejection of Lisbon

16th June 2008, Comments 0 comments

Irish foreign affairs minister claims that perceived lack of information was the reason why Irish said no.

16 June 2008

DUBLIN - As soul-searching intensified over the rejection of the European Union's Lisbon Treaty in Ireland Friday, Minister for Foreign Affairs Micheal Martin claimed that a lack of information had scuppered the treaty.

Martin said a perceived lack of information was the big issue in the Lisbon Treaty campaign.

Asked where things went wrong, Martin, director of ruling governing party Fianna Fail's referendum campaign, said: "People were on the doorstep were saying 'I still don't know enough about this treaty.'"

This was a "significant" factor, Martin claimed.

The minister said he was not blaming the Referendum Commission but said there was a sense that the treaty "just didn't register" and "lacked a clear tangible".

He added there was a "general sense of giving away too much power" and that there were lessons for Europe and Ireland in "reconnecting" with voters.

He said some people still believed that the Lisbon Treaty could lead to military conscription and that the right to life of the unborn was an issue.

Opposition Fine Gael Member of the European Parliament (MEP) Mairead McGuinness, who had campaigned for a yes vote, said that "three things had defeated the referendum".

"The fact that the taoiseach (Prime Minister Brian Cowen) had not read it, the fact that Charlie Mc Creevy (EU competition commissioner) had not read it, and the fact that women had feared that their children would end up being called up into a European army," she said.

"A lot of Irish people were reading misinformation with regard to moral issues," she added.

The chief moral issue emerging as the culprit responsible for the no vote Friday was the issue of Ireland's neutrality.

Sinn Fein, the only parliamentary party to campaign for a no vote, raised concerns about neutrality and there were widespread fears that the treaty could pave the way for conscription of Irish citizens into a European army.

Anti-militarisation fears also centred around the European Defence Agency and questions were raised as to whether Ireland would be committed to budgetary spending to get into the international arms trade.

The no campaign also raised the treaty's impact on workers' rights, and Ireland's ability to stop policies that are not in its interests.

A major focus of Libertas, the most visible face of the no campaign, in its campaign has been claims that the Lisbon Treaty could enable a challenge to Ireland's low corporate tax rates.

Fears for Ireland's economy worked in favour of a no vote with the national mood soured by a sharp fall in growth that has raised fears the "Celtic Tiger" is losing its bite.

Many feared that the low-tax economy which remains relatively dependent on foreign investment would suffer further if the treaty went through.

The People's Movememt, headed by former Green MEP Patricia McKenna, a broad-based alliance, campaigned "against any measures that further develop the EU into a federal superstate, and works to defend and enhance popular sovereignty, democracy and social justice in Ireland."

No campaigners also managed to exploit anger at being railroaded into a yes vote and accused EU chief Jose Manuel Barroso of putting a gun to Irish heads when he stated in Brussels recently that Europe "will pay a price" if voters reject the treaty.

There was also a sense that the no vote was also a means of expressing anger, such as by Irish fishermen, over rising fuel costs and fishing quotas.

There was huge no vote in traditional hubs of the industry such as Castletownbere in west county Cork in the south-west of the country.

However, although it was stressed that almost every grouping had their own reasons to vote no, again and again the decisive factor seemed to be the lack of information.

While Irish people are generally pro-European, many find the treaty too complicated and almost indecipherable with Charlie McCreevy, Ireland's EU commissioner for internal market and services, remarking that "no sane or sensible person" would read it.

The independent commission tasked with explaining it to voters has distributed a booklet to 2 million households outlining the 346-page document in simplified terms.

However, Iarfhlaith O'Neill, the High Court judge who chaired the Referendum Commission, was forced to admit that even he did not fully understand the wording of a key section on veto powers.

Perhaps Ireland's officialdom and leaders might do better to take a less honest approach to whether they had succeeded in doing their homework next time.

[dpa / Expatica]

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