[Sinn Fein]

8th August 2002

Roche comments against Sinn Fein are a ``pathetic attempt to escape'' real debate on Nice

Sinn Fein's spokesperson on International Affairs and delegate to the Forum on Europe, Aengus Ó Snodaigh TD has described comments by Dick Roche as a ``pathetic attempt to escape'' a debate on the real issues surrounding Nice.

Deputy Ó Snodaigh said:

``The suggestion by Dick Roche that Sinn Fein is somehow ambivilant in it's attitude to the introduction of immigration as an issue in the Nice Treaty is absolutely without foundation and is a pathetic attempt to escape debating the real issues surrounding the Treaty of Nice.

``We made our position quite clear on the issue of EU enlargement before, during and after the last campaign. We are not opposed to enlargement and have expressed and supported the view that even now more countries can join the Union whether Ireland ratifies the treaty or not. We believe that these new countries and their people should be joining the EU on a basis of equality and not as second-class citizens as is the case under Nice.

``Immigration was not an issue in the last referendum campaign and Sinn Fein is opposed to its introduction as an issue in this one. As we have made clear repeatedly we do not oppose enlargement and we do not believe that the accession of new countries will lead to any large influx of immigrants. We believe in a progressive immigration and asylum policy and we believe that people on all sides in the Nice debate must ensure that nothing is said or done which could give encouragement to xenophobes or damage inter-community relations.

``Amongst the main reasons that people voted No were the erosion of sovereignty and neutrality, the democratic deficit in the European Union and the creation of a two-speed Europe. Despite what the government and Dick Roche would have us believe, none of these central issues have been addressed in the meantime. Their declaration on neutrality is not worth the paper it is written on. The Treaty is unchanged.

``However, central to this referendum campaign must surely be the democratic rights of citizens of this state. We have already rejected this flawed Treaty. Under current EU rules it was our democratic right to do so. The government response was to not only ignore the will of the people but to actively encourage the rest of Europe to ignore it as well. This alone probably best illustrates what awaits us post Nice. Smaller countries in Europe will no longer be treated as equals - we will be mere appendages to the larger nations as they set about building a militarised European Superstate.''

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