[Sinn Fein]

18 May 2001

Treaty of Nice referendum Ó Caoláin describes Taoiseach's attack on SF as ``bizarre''

Responding to the Taoiseach's attack on Sinn Fein at the Fianna Fáil party's launch of its pro-Nice campaign, Sinn Fein TD Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin said:

``I can only describe the Taoiseach's attack on Sinn Fein and all other opponents of the Treaty of Nice as bizarre. He clearly realises that the opposition to the Nice Treaty is having a significant political impact.

``The Fianna Fáil leader makes the outrageous claim that a NO vote would result in `national humiliation' and would have to be followed by a second referendum to reverse the result of the first. In other words the electorate have no real choice as the government could not or would not implement their decision. This outrageous statement in itself is a good reason to vote NO in order to show the government that they must respect the will of the electorate.

``The Taoiseach must be running out of reasoned arguments based on the Nice Treaty and its implications if he has to trawl back to IRA activity during the Second World War to answer Sinn Fein today.

``If the Fianna Fáil leader wishes to debate the history of neutrality he should ask himself how the close relationship with NATO provided for in the Treaty of Nice is compatible with the long tradition of Irish anti-imperialism and neutrality from Wolfe Tone to James Connolly to the First Dáil.

``Under the Treaty of Nice the Taoiseach has committed the State to `genuine strategic partnership between the EU and NATO in the management of crises with due regard for the two organisations' decision making autonomy'.

``It is regrettable that the Taoiseach attempts to use the issue of demilitarisation in the Six Counties to attack Sinn Fein's stance on Nice. Does he forget that the British troops who saturate South Armagh with their forts and spyposts are also NATO troops?

``Sinn Fein will not take lectures from Fianna Fáil on international affairs. In Ireland, in Palestine, in the Basque country and in all conflict situations the road to lasting peace is through inclusive negotiations based on the recognition of civil rights and national self-determination.

``This Fianna Fáil-led government has increased military spending significantly as a result of its commitment to NATO's Partnership for Peace and the new EU Rapid Reaction Force. Its sale of Clancy Barracks in Dublin will yield further millions for this purpose instead of using this valuable resource for badly needed local authority housing.

``Before it seeks to impugn the integrity of Sinn Fein in this debate Fianna Fáil should examine their own record. It was Fianna Fáil leader Bertie Ahern who said PfP membership would be `a gratuitous signal that Ireland is moving away from its neutrality and towards gradual incorporation into NATO and the WEU in due course'. Fianna Fáil's 1997 election manifesto explicitly opposed PfP membership. Yet they went on to enter PfP without a referendum. They cannot claim credibility now when they say Nice does not affect our neutrality.''

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