[Sinn Fein]

26th September 2002

Ó Snodaigh - Neutrality is a central issue in Nice Campaign

Sinn Fein TD Aengus Ó Snodaigh speaking at the launch of the party's No to Nice campaign said that ``Most of the arguments from the Yes campaign are based on the lie that a rejection of Nice will end our involvement in the European Union. But this is not a referendum about our continued membership. It is about how the EU should be governed.'' Deputy Ó Snodaigh said:

``Neutrality is a central issue in this referendum. The Nice Treaty continues the militarisation of the EU. It establishes a new Political and Security Committee to deal with EU Common Foreign and Security Policy. The EU Rapid Reaction Force will come under the auspices of this new Committee. The new Committee will thus oversee a Rapid Reaction Force which is authorised to operate outside the borders of the EU. This gives the force an offensive capacity, something the Irish government should never have agreed to.

``An léir dúinn uile go bhfuil fúinn rud a chruthú a bheidh ina chumhacht dhomhanda?'' Sin an ceist a chuir Romano Prodi, Uachtarán an Chomisiúin anuraidh. ``Ní hea'' a deireann Sinn Fein agus is é sin an fáth go bhfuilimíd ag cur i gcoinne Conradh Nice ar son na neodractha agus ar son an neamhspleachais.

``The Seville declarations are political statements and do not alter one word of the Treaty. The proposed new wording in the constitutional amendment is too narrowly focused and is not a real neutrality amendment. It only addresses `common defence' as set out in Nice. It will not prevent, for example, the government allowing US warplanes to use Shannon airport as a base, as they continue to do, or involvement in the Rapid Reaction Force. ``Our foreign policy should not be based on a choice between superpowers - either Bush's US or a ``world power'' as Romano Prodi described the EU that he and others want to create. We are opposed to the development of the EU as a superpower. Instead this State should be making common cause with those formerly colonized countries with which we have so much in common.

``I want to deal with some of the bogus arguments and scaremongering of the Yes side. Most of their arguments are based on the lie that a rejection of Nice will end our involvement in the European Union. The endless repetition of the benefits of EU membership are completely irrelevant because this is not a referendum about our continued membership. It is about how the EU should be governed.

``Equally bogus are the dire warnings of economic catastrophe if we vote NO. They have produced no evidence whatsoever to show that a `No' vote will damage the economy. There is no consensus among economists and other experts that `Yes' will benefit our economy and `No' will damage it. This is not fact, it is `Yes' campaign propaganda. In fact, the EU has not insulated us from the downturn and neither will Nice. It has not protected us from budget cuts and neither will Nice.

``We all know that, if there is a NO vote, the Taoiseach will be on RTE television right away to reassure Ireland and the world that this has no economic implications, that the economy is still healthy, and that we are open for business and investment. And he will be right.

``The Yes side are threatening the electorate that this State will be isolated in the EU if we vote No and we will penalized by the other member States. I don't believe this will happen but I would ask the Yes side to follow the logic of their argument. If they really believe this is the case then they are telling the Irish people we have no real choice and we will be punished for exercising our democratic rights. What does that say about democracy and accountability in the EU and in Ireland?

``I believe that people throughout the European Union would welcome a second NO vote here. It would be a blow for the ordinary citizen against the political and economic elites in the EU who are driving the project of a superstate and undermining the ability of citizens to hold government accountable.''ENDS

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