[Sinn Fein]

28th January 2002

National Forum on Europe to meet in Tallaght

Sinn Fein Councillor Sean Crowe has called on people to attend the meeting of the National Forum on Europe which will take place in the County Council offices this evening. He said that it is important that there is a full and open debate on what type of Europe we want to live in and what role Ireland should play in that Europe. Sinn Fein is determined not to allow the government to use it to prepare the way for a re-run of the Nice Referendum.

Cllr Crowe said:

``It is important to put on record at the outset our view that the decision of the people here in the Nice Treaty referendum must be respected and implemented. The Irish government has not formally requested the other EU governments to halt the process of ratification of the Nice Treaty. In our view this defies the expressed will of the Irish electorate when they rejected Nice.

``Sinn Fein is totally opposed to a replay of the referendum. We have posed the question, if the people of France or Germany or Spain refused to ratify the Nice Treaty would the outcome be regarded in the same way as the 26-County referendum result. If it were any of these countries the reaction would we believe be very different. The treaty would be back on the drawing board.

``The fact that the Nice ratification process is still ongoing sends a clear message to the Irish people. It says that because we are small in numbers, our voice can be disregarded. ``This cuts to the heart of Sinn Fein concerns and objection to the Nice Treaty. We wish to retain the EU as a partnership of equal democracies, regardless of population size. There is no doubt in our mind that Nice moves us another step closer to an EU dominated by the larger states and possibly, through the use of the ``enhanced co-operation'' clauses, to a two tier EU.

``Sinn Fein made it very clear during the Nice referendum that we are not opposed to the enlargement of the EU. What we do oppose is the creation of a giant EU ``superstate''.

``We value our sovereignty. The EU already has a huge democratic deficit, one which Nice did absolutely nothing to redress. Deeper integration as envisaged in Nice would make the EU even more undemocratic and move decision making further away from the individual citizen, from the local communities they live in and from the national governments they democratically elect.

``Sinn Fein also values Irish neutrality and the right to formulate and implement an independent international policy. We believe that the referendum result imposes a clear obligation on the coalition to withdraw from the Rapid Reaction Force. We regard it as the core of a new EU army and we wish to see peacekeeping as the sole responsibility of the United Nations.

``Sinn Fein does have that vision. We want to see a Europe defending our democratic rights not eroding them. We want a Europe that will act collectively to promote equality across the EU in terms of the rights of women, children, disadvantaged communities and the aged.

``We want to see a Europe that will tackle racism and act decisively to protect and enhance our environment on an EU level, not one that subsidises nuclear power building programmes. We want to be part of a Europe run democratically from the lowest possible level from the bottom to the top, not the reverse that is the case today.We have an excellent opportunity to create a dynamic out of this forum, where we can discuss the issues and begin the job our making our voice heard internationally about the best Europe for us all.''ENDS

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