31st August 2002
Time for government to end its campaign of insults and name-calling
Sinn Fein TD for Dublin South Central Aengus Ó Snodaigh has called on the government to bring an end to its campaign of name calling, insults and scaremongering and engage in a real debate on the Nice Treaty. Deputy Ó Snodaigh said that in the last two days alone we have listened to Bertie Ahern, Mary Harney and Dick Roche deride those who voted No to the Nice Treaty last June. The only possible outcome to such a negative campaign is that the electorate turn off and tune out even before the referendum date is set. It is incumbent on all of us to use the next two months for constructive debate to ensure that we have an informed electorate going to the ballot box in record numbers. Deputy Ó Snodaigh who is addressing a party conference on the Nice Treaty in the Writers Museum in Dublin this morning said:
``For the purposes of clarity and to correct the misinformation which we are now hearing on a daily basis I would like to outline our attitude to the EU, immigration and why we are calling on the electorate to vote no to
``Sinn Fein supports membership of the EU but we are opposed to an EU superstate with its own army acting not in the interests of its 370 million citizens but in the interests of international business. We need to be absolutely clear - this is not a referendum about continued membership of the EU as the `Yes' camp so often claims. We will not be turfed out for confirming our NO vote of last year. Denmark was not expelled or punished for saying No twice, in fact they currently hold the EU presidency. This referendum is about changing the structures and shape of the EU to favour the larger states. It is about fundamentally changing the basis on which the EU was established - that of a partnership of equal states.
No to a two tier Europe
Enhanced cooperation is yet another example of positive original principles of the EU being undermined. The idea of a Europe where we all moved together at the speed of the slowest member, while offering that member a helping hand was a positive one. It is one that will disappear altogether if the Nice Treaty is ratified.
Under the proposals contained in the Nice Treaty the seven smallest of the current 15 states could oppose a whole range of EU polices only to be overruled by the other eight who between them control more than 70% of the votes on the EU's decision making council. If small states are in danger of becoming the satellites of the larger ones, what does that say about the regions of the EU and more importantly the peoples trapped without the right to self determination?
The Europe of Committees
The bureaucracy and institutions of the EU are known as much for the amount of power they wield as their unaccountability. Rather than tackle this serious deficiency, the Nice Treaty gives us more committees, some with huge powers. It also gives more powers to unelected bureaucrats such as the President of the EU Commission who has powers that rival any EU Prime Minister or Head of State. Indeed in the months since the first Nice referendum we have heard plan after plan seeping out from the EU Commission and the larger states, calling for a stronger President with more powers, for an EU government, for a two tier commission and for a Council of Ministers with permanent members while the smaller states would rotate places.
Loss of a commissioner
At present each member state has at least one commissioner. Under Nice when the EU enlarges to 27 members it Commission must be less than 27. So as the EU enlarges, there will be periods when Ireland will have no Commissioner.
The Nice Treaty is not primarily about enlargement but it is being cynically used by proponents of Nice as a distraction from the true intent of the treaty. Sinn Fein is not opposed to enlargement and it can proceed if Nice is rejected.
Immigration is not an issue in this referendum. We reject absolutely the notion that the challenges which we face in managing an increasingly diverse Ireland should be manipulated or misrepresented in the course of this debate, by either Justin Barrett or by Minister Roche. We believe Ireland's position regarding the freedom to work throughout the EU is the correct one and all other EU members should be urged to accept it.
What will the impact of saying No to Nice be?
Saying No to Nice a second time will force the Dublin Government and the EU itself to wake up and reconsider what is a very badly and hastily formulated treaty. In reality the deliberations in the Convention on Europe arising from the Laeken Declaration are a recognition that the architects of the EU have failed. They know they have failed to create an EU that is responsive to the needs and wishes of its hundreds of millions of citizens, as distinct from its ruling elite.
Rejection of Nice will not lead to the Irish economy losing any EU funds or being `punished' by other states. It will not lead to a mass withdrawal international investment from the economy. This is cynical scare-mongering of the worst kind.
Democracy is now the issue. The very holding of this referendum itself is a denial of the democratic decision made by the people last year. The message it sends is that the people of the smaller states do not have the right to say No. If the government and its allies succeed in bullying the electorate into voting `Yes' this time it will be a huge setback for democracy in Ireland, in the EU and for the applicant countries No to Nice means Yes to democracy.
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