26th September 2002
Ó Caoláin - democracy is the key issue in Nice 2 referendum
Sinn Fein's Parliamentary Group leader Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin TD speaking at the launch of the party's No to Nice campagin in Dublin this morning said that the key issue in this referendum is democracy.'' Deputy Ó Caoláin said:
``For Sinn Fein the key issue in this referendum campaign is Democracy. It is about the democratic accountability of a government which quite deliberately defied the decision of the electorate in last year's referendum on Nice. It is about the integrity of the referendum process itself. A referendum can have no democratic value in this State if a government can defy its outcome and then return to the people seeking a reversal of their decision.
``After the first vote on Nice the Taoiseach went to the Gothenburg EU Summit and told the other States to proceed with ratification. This was in defiance both of the decision of the Irish electorate and of a fundamental principle of the EU - that Treaties must be ratified by all member states. This State declined to ratify in the most decisive manner - by referendum of the people.
``The government in effect told the other EU governments ``We are only a small State, you don't have to wait for us, go ahead and we will get our people to change their minds.'' In others words we have no choice. I ask the Taoiseach once again a question he has failed to answer: If the people or Germany or France or Britain had rejected this Treaty would their governments have acted as ours has done? Would the other states have proceeded with ratification? Of course not. The conduct of the Government is in line with the Treaty of Nice itself because our fundamental objection to the Treaty is that it brings to an end the EU as a partnership of equal sovereign states.
``The constitutional amendment the Government is asking us to adopt refers specifically to those articles of the Treaty which provide for what is called `enhanced co-operation'. This will allow up to eight member states to use the EU institutions to advance their common interests, leaving the rest outside the loop. Taken together with the extension of qualified majority voting to 30 new areas and the loss of the permanent Irish presence on the EU Commission, this represents a major blow to both Irish sovereignty and equitable Irish participation in the EU.
``Last week the Taoiseach referred to these as ``minor institutional arrangements'' and said he did not want to go into the complexities of the Treaty. Obviously the Yes side does not want to deal with the detail of the Treaty because the devil is in the detail. This may well be the last referendum in which the people of this State can really influence the shape of the EU of which we are members. Because if Nice is passed then so-called `enhanced co-operation' will allow eight or more states to proceed ahead of the rest regardless of the will of the people in any one State. Under Nice the two-tier EU will be a reality.
``For the sake of democracy we urge the electorate to Vote NO on 19 October.''
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