Ireland rejects EU reform treaty
June 13, 2008
Voters in the Irish Republic have rejected the European Union's Lisbon treaty in a vote by 53.4% to 46.6%.
The poll is a major blow to leaders in the 27-nation EU, which requires all its members to ratify the treaty. Only Ireland has held a public vote.
The European Commission says nations should continue to ratify the treaty, designed to streamline decision-making.
Irish PM Brian Cowen said he respected the vote but it had caused a "difficult situation" that had "no quick fix".
Leaders of the No campaign said the vote was a "great result for Ireland".
An earlier, more wide-ranging EU draft constitution failed after French and Dutch voters rejected it in 2005.
The Irish No campaign won by 862,415 votes to 752,451. Turnout was 53.1%.
Mr Cowen said: "The government accepts and respects the verdict of the Irish people."
He said he would work with other EU leaders to try to find an "agreed way forward" but that the bloc was in "uncharted territory".
At the end of the day, for a myriad of reasons, the people have spoken Dermot Ahern, Justice Minister "Ireland has no wish to halt the progress" of the EU, he said.
A referendum was mandatory in Ireland as the country would need to change its constitution to accommodate the treaty.
European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso said he had spoken to Mr Cowen and agreed with him that this was not a vote against the EU.
"Ireland remains committed to a strong Europe," he said.
"Ratifications should continue to take their course."
France and Germany quickly issued a joint statement expressing regret over the Irish result.
British Foreign Secretary David Miliband said the UK would press on with ratification, saying: "It's right that we continue with our own process."
[THIS IS THE TYPICAL BRUSSELS/GERMANY/FRENCH RESPONSE: WHO CARES WHAT THE PEOPLE SAY?? THEY WILL LEARN THAT WE KNOW WHAT IS BEST FOR THEM! WE SHALL EDUCATE THEM THROUGH REGULATION... See, e.g., UK Labor Party Willing to Give-Away Country's Sovereignty to EU; Does the US Democratic Party Wish to Do the Same for America??, ITSSD Journal on Pathological Communalism, at: http://itssdpathologicalcommunalism.blogspot.com/2008/04/uk-labor-party-willing-to-give-away.html ; Why Europe’s National Politicians Sign Away National Sovereignty , ITSSD Journal on Economic Freedom, at: http://itssdeconomicfreedom.blogspot.com/2008/01/why-europes-national-politicians-sign.html ; Brussels' and Gordon Brown's Contempt for the European People, ITSSD Journal on Economic Freedom, at: http://itssdeconomicfreedom.blogspot.com/2008/01/brussels-and-gordon-browns-contempt-for.html ; Forner UK Prime Minister Tony Blair Was Determined to Modify Public Behavior Through Claude Helvetius’ ‘Education Thru Legislation' Program, ITSSD Journal on Pathological Communalism, at: http://itssdpathologicalcommunalism.blogspot.com/2008/01/forner-uk-prime-minister-tony-blair-was.html ; Roger Helmer - UK Member of EU Parliament - "Straight Talking" Newsletter Dec. 2007, ITSSD Journal on Economic Freedom, at: http://itssdeconomicfreedom.blogspot.com/2008/01/roger-helmer-uk-member-of-eu-parliament.html ; 11/6/07 E-mail Correspondences Between Roger Helmer UK Member of European Parliament & Lawrence Kogan, ITSSD CEO, ITSSD Journal on Economic Freedom, at: http://itssdeconomicfreedom.blogspot.com/2008/01/11607-e-mail-correspondences-between.html .]
Spain has said a solution will be found but Czech President Vaclav Klaus said ratification could not now continue.
Mr Barroso said EU leaders would have to decide at a summit next week how to proceed. He called for the EU to continue focusing on issues of interest to people like jobs and inflation, energy security and climate change.
This is democracy in action... and Europe needs to listen to the voice of the people Declan Ganley, Libertas.
But BBC Europe editor, Mark Mardell, says this is a multiple crisis for the EU - a crisis of rule change, of legitimacy and of morale.
In the end, he says, the Lisbon treaty could be declared dead: some parts of it would be implemented without a treaty, others abandoned, others put in a new treaty when Croatia joins the EU in a couple of years time.
Declan Ganley of the anti-treaty lobby group Libertas said: "It is a great day for Irish democracy." He added: "This is democracy in action... and Europe needs to listen to the voice of the people."
The No campaign was a broad coalition ranging from Libertas to Sinn Fein, the only party in parliament to oppose the treaty.
Gerry Adams, the president of Sinn Fein, said: "People feel secure at the heart of Europe, but they want to ensure there's maximum democratic power."
Correspondents say many voters did not understand the treaty despite a high-profile campaign led by Mr Cowen, which had the support of most of the country's main parties.
[ACTUALLY, THE VOTERS WELL UNDERSTOOD THE EU TREATY. IT WOULD DENY EUROPEANS THEIR NATURAL RIGHTS TO DUE PROCESS OF LAW & THE EU TREATY WOULD ALSO ATTENUATE THEIR PRIVATE PROPERTY RIGHTS THROUGH MORE REGULATION & TAXATION. THE IRISH TO NOT WISH TO BE RULED BY BRUSSELS-BASED, SOCIAL WELFARE-STATE-DRIVEN 'PHILOSOPHER KINGS'.]
Jose Manuel Barroso said the EC respected the vote but had hoped for another outcome.
Mr Cowen accused the No camp of "misrepresentation", saying voters had voiced concern about "issues that clearly weren't in the treaty at all", the Irish Times reported.
The treaty, which is designed to help the EU cope with its expansion into eastern Europe, provides for a streamlining of the European Commission, the removal of the national veto in more policy areas, a new president of the European Council and a strengthened foreign affairs post.
[THE EU TREATY MANDATES SURRENDER OF NATIONAL SOVEREIGNTY BY EU MEMBER STATES VIA THE REMOVAL OF THE NATIONAL VETO...]
The treaty was due to come into force on 1 January 2009.
Fourteen countries out of the 27 have completed ratification so far.
Just over three million Irish voters are registered - in a European Union of 490 million people.
The EU Brussels and National Government Elite Continue to Express Contempt for What the European People Want!!
EU Treaty 'Not Dead' Despite Irish Vote
June 14, 2008
European governments have pledged to continue implementing the EU reform treaty, despite its rejection by Irish voters.
More than half those who cast their ballots said 'No' to the Lisbon Treaty, which requires the support of all 27 EU members.
The Irish Prime Minister says there will be no second referendum - which could result in the treaty being scrapped altogether.
Official results of the treaty referendum showed out of some 1.6m votes cast, 53.4% people said No, while 46.6% said Yes.
The vote means the reforms will no longer come into force on January 1, 2009 as planned. "In theory this should kill the treaty dead," said Sky's political correspondent Glen Oglaza.
"The European Commission chief Jose Manuel Barroso said during the course of this campaign that there is no Plan B.
"Euro-sceptics are pointing out that this was already Plan B - the failed European Constitution was Plan A.
"They want to know how far down the alphabet we are going to go."
However, Mr Barroso argued that despite the referendum outcome, the treaty was "not dead". He said he had spoken to Ireland's Premier Brian Cowen and that "he also believed the treaty is not dead, the treaty is alive".
Mr Cowen, whose Fianna Fail party supported a Yes vote, said he was disappointed but the judgment of the Irish people must be respected.
Irish PM after result announced
"In a democracy, the will of the people - as expressed at the ballot box - is sovereign," he said.
But he added: "We must not rush to conclusions. The Union has been in this situation before and each time has found an agreed way forward."
Gerry Adams, whose Sinn Fein party urged voters to reject the reform, told Sky News: "It's a very good day for Europe and a very good day for Ireland."
The 'No' vote will cause a major headache as it was designed to streamline decision-making for the enlarged EU's 27 member states.
Ireland was the only country to hold a public vote on the Treaty because it would have had to amend its national constitution to enact it.
Foreign Secretary David Miliband said Britain would continue its process of ratifying the Lisbon treaty, despite the setback in Ireland.
EU referendum: Ireland votes against Lisbon Treaty
By Tom Peterkin in Dublin
June 13, 2008
Irish voters have left Brussels' plans for EU integration in tatters by rejecting the Lisbon Treaty.
Even before all the official Ireland referendum results were announced, Manuel Barroso, the President of the European Commission, conceded that the public had voted against the Treaty.
But despite the result, he still called on other member states to ratify the Treaty. "I believe the treaty is alive and we should now try to find a solution," he said in Brussels.
Dermot Ahern, Ireland's justice minister, said: “At the end of the day, for a myriad of reasons, the people have spoken.”
The result is bad news for Ireland's leader, Taoiseach Brian Cowen, who will have some tough explaining to do when he faces EU leaders at the European Council summit next week in Brussels.
Mr Ahern said he became somewhat despondent and surprised at the opposition to the treaty in the final days of canvassing.
The minister believes high numbers of women rejected the EU deal because of fears over army conscription in a new military alliance.
At the major ballot-counting center in Dublin, Finance Minister Brian Lenihan struggled to speak to reporters as anti-treaty activists jubilantly drowned him out with songs and chants of "No!"
"This is a huge rebuff to the political establishment. It shows there is massive distrust among ordinary working people," said Joe Higgins, the sole Socialist Party member in the Irish parliament.
The decision places massive doubt over the future of the pact designed to bring more European integration.
All 27 European member states have to ratify the treaty for it to go come into force next year. So far it has been approved by 18 members including Britain, but Ireland is the only country to put it to a public vote.
The leaders of the 26 other member states watched with dismay as Ireland voted “no”, a decision that will inevitably lead to much infighting and bickering across Europe.
The main Irish political parties, including Taoiseach Mr Cowen's leading government party Fianna Fail, have fought hard for a Yes vote, with Sinn Fein campaigning against the Treaty.
Despite benefiting from £32 billion in European Grants in recent years, a low turn-out (45 per cent) of the Irish electorate discarded the Treaty, designed to streamline the EU.
The outcome was triumph for a highly-effective No Campaign masterminded by the Libertas group led by the multimillionaire Declan Ganley. Libertas argued that the Treaty would undermine Ireland’s influence in Europe, would open the door to interference in taxation and enshrine EU law above Irish law.
For Brian Cowen, the newly-installed Irish Prime Minister, the result was a disaster. All the main political parties, aside from Sinn Fein, had supported the Treaty and made strenuous efforts to win the referendum.
Mr Cowen now has to face the embarrassment of explaining to his fellow European leaders why he failed to persuade his nation to adopt the Treaty.
Ireland Snubs the EU
By Conor O’Clery
Irish voters, making up a fraction of one per cent of the population of the European Union, have rejected a crucial EU reform treaty by a narrow margin, leaving itself isolated in Europe and the European Union in crisis.
The result stopped in its tracks an accord hammered out in Lisbon, Portugal, to enable European institutions to cope with a rapid EU growth to 27 countries with a population of 495 million people.
The outcome, announced yesterday afternoon, of the referendum held Thursday dismayed and angered governments across Europe, which saw their tortuous negotiations to make EU institutions more efficient thrown into disarray.
The Lisbon Treaty had to be ratified by every country before coming into effect and EU leaders must now find some other way for European integration to go ahead. Twenty-six countries left ratification to their national governments and only Ireland, with 3.05 million voters, staged a referendum, as required under its constitution.
British Prime Minister Gordon Brown will now face furious domestic pressure to hold a once-promised referendum rather than continue to ratify the treaty through parliament. Ireland can only hope that Britain will also reject the treaty: a small country saying no is a problem for the small country, but a big country saying no is a problem for Brussels.
The vote is a slap in the face for the French Government whose foreign minister Bernard Kouchner warned Ireland on Monday that it would be very troubling “that we would not be able to count on the Irish who counted a lot on Europe's money.” Such comments, implying that an ungrateful Ireland would be cast adrift, sounded like bullying to many Irish voters.
What has left veteran European observers scratching their heads in genuine bewilderment is that Ireland of all countries should rebuff the EU, as membership of the European club has allowed Ireland to prosper mightily and to escape from the shadow of Britain, its former ruler.
The result confounded and infuriated the Irish political establishment, which had thrown all its energies into securing a “Yes” vote. The government, the major opposition parties and the biggest labor and farming unions all campaigned for ratification.
It also confounded Ireland’s leading gambling company, Paddy Power PLC, which was so convinced of the outcome it prematurely paid out winnings to people who bet on a ‘Yes’ vote, leaving the company left with “egg on our faces” as a spokeswoman put it.
Irish prime minister Brian Cowen put his personal prestige on delivering a “Yes” vote and is also left with egg on his face. Seemingly unaware how compromised the Irish political class has been by corruption allegations and failures to cope with internal problems such as a dysfunctional health service, he and other government ministers erected posters on every Irish lamp post with their portraits, urging a “Yes” vote.
Opponents of the treaty in Europe cheered on the Irish ‘No” campaign, and British newspapers circulating in Ireland, like the Rupert Murdoch-owned Times, campaigned against ratification, leading to accusations from the “Yes” campaign that Britain's Eurosceptics were waging a proxy war in Ireland.
For the anti-EU Europeans, to paraphrase Winston Churchill, never has so much been done, by so few, for so many, as the Irish have scuppered a treaty which would likely have been rejected by the electorates of several other member countries.
One reason for the “No” vote was that the 287-page document was so full of bureaucratic language that people did not know what they were voting for. The treaty proved impenetrable even to legal experts: the chairman of the independent Irish Referendum Commission, Iarfhlaith O Neill, was embarrassingly unable to answer a technical point at a press conference last week.
[EU BUREAUCRATIC DOUBLESPEAK, LACK OF TRANSPARENCY & ACCOUNTABILITY, and A SENSE OF ELITISM.]
In an ill-tempered national debate, both sides threw around accusation of lies and distortions. A free-market organisation called Libertas formed by Irish businessman Declan Ganley argued that the country’s low corporate tax rate, crucial for international investment, would be jeopardized by the treaty.
The pro-life lobby expressed fears that a loss of sovereignty could mean the end of Ireland’s strict anti-abortion law.
The minor opposition party, Sinn Fein, stirred up concerns that Ireland would lose its cherished neutrality and become part of a militarized Europe. Some voters said they thought they were voting against conscription.
Opponents also argued that Ireland’s influence in Europe would be weakened through the loss its commissioner on the European Commission, the de facto European cabinet, for five out of every 15 years.
The government rejected all these claims, and pointed out that every EU member country would lose their commissioner for similar periods. But as Irish radio presenter Pat Kenny put it, the “No” campaign had all the best tunes.
Anticipating the outcome, the Irish Times thundered its disapproval on Saturday in an editorial headed “Are we out of our minds?” Seeking an explanation for a likely defeat it reflected on “a strange public mood out there that is anti-establishment, anti-authority and anti-politician.”
Ireland’s foreign minister Micheál Martin admitted the result showed a disconnect between EU institutions and its people. Martin, who has to face his fellow EU foreign ministers on Monday to explain what happened, admitted “There was a general sense we were giving away too much power.”
Ireland may try again as it did with a previous EU treaty when it held two referenda in 2001 and 2002 to get a “Yes” vote, but such a move would only confirm the argument that European democracy means everyone agreeing to what the bureaucrats decide.
Conor O'Clery is former chief foreign correspondent of The Irish Times, Ireland's leading national newspaper.