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EU – French far-right firebrand cancels Ireland trip

   PARIS, March 6, 2008  – Veteran French far-right leader Jean-Marie Le
Pen said on Wednesday he had called off a trip to Ireland to join the debate
on the EU’s new reform treaty, after his planned visit sparked angry reactions.
   Le Pen, who fiercely contested the Lisbon treaty’s adoption by the French
parliament last month, was invited to speak at a public event in Dublin as
part of the campaign for a "No" vote in a planned Irish referendum on the
   But the National Front leader said in a statement he feared his visit,
along with his deputy Bruno Gollnisch, would have the opposite effect.
   "Highly precise information, from quite reliable sources, has convinced us
that our presence would be exploited as outside interference in a national
debate, by provocateurs who favour the treaty," Le Pen said.
   Irish MPs and lobbyists had criticised the decision to invite Le Pen, who
was handed a three-month suspended jail sentence last month for condoning Nazi
war crimes by describing the occupation of France as "not especially inhumane".
   Critics of the Lisbon Treaty, signed by the 27-nation bloc’s leaders in
December, have charged that it is broadly similar to the EU Constitution,
which was left dead in the water when Dutch and French voters rejected it in
   Ireland is the only EU country to hold a referendum on the adoption of the
treaty, which must be ratified by all member states to come into force.
   According to a poll published at the weekend, less than half of the Irish
people would vote for the new text.
   In 2001, Ireland sent shockwaves through the bloc when it voted down the
Nice Treaty on institutional reform and enlargement, although that decision
was reversed in another referendum in 2003.