[Sinn Fein]

13 May 1998

Sinn Fein calls for NO vote in Amsterdam Treaty

Statement by Sinn Fein Dublin South West representative Seán Crowe:

It is very clear that despite the efforts of the Referendum Commission there is still a widespread lack of knowledge and understanding about the Amsterdam Treaty and what it means. I can testify to that in the area of Tallaght which I represent.

The vast majority of people do not know what they are being asked to endorse. It is unreasonable to expect that they can be enlightened in the space of a week.

I would emphasise therefore that if people don't know they should vote NO. This would allow for a complete re-examination of the Amsterdam Treaty and a new referendum when we could have a real debate.

Many areas throughout Dublin, including my own constituency of Dublin South West, have very serious drug abuse problems. In recent weeks we have heard the Yes campaign trying to sell this Treaty by telling people that it will play a role in fighting the drugs scourge. I would refute that. This Treaty is not necessary in order to allow for co-operation between European police forces on the drugs problem as co-operation already exists in this area.

People in communities affected by drugs know that the responsibility for addressing this crisis rests with the government in this State and not with Europe. Successive governments have failed miserably in their task and it is insulting to communties to try to convince them to accept an undemocratic treaty by using the issue of drugs.

Furthermore we cannot ignore those groups representing the unemployed, not only here in Ireland but throughout Europe who are calling for a NO vote. It is clear that Amsterdam gives only token recognition of the need to reduce unemployment.

One of the ironies of the holding of the two referenda on the same day is that while the Good Friday document is part of the effort to remove the gun from Irish politics, the Amsterdam Treaty actually supports the European arms industry. Article J 7.1 states that ``the progressive framing of a common defence policy will be supported, as member states consider appropriate, by co- operation between them in the field of armaments''.

It is also ironic that while we are attempting to rid ourselves of the last remnants of the Act of Union of 1800 this new Act of Union is part of a process which will make Ireland a province of a European superstate armed with nuclear weapons. Remarks by Sinn Fein TF Caoimhghin O Caolain at a press conference calling for a 'No' vote on the 22 May Amsterdam Treaty referendum:

One word sums up all the reasons why Sinn Fein is calling for a NO vote in the Referendum on the Amsterdam Treaty. That word is democracy. Both the referendum itself and the Treaty of Amsterdam fail the democratic test.

While this State is one of only two in the European Union who are putting the Treaty to a referendum, the vote here is being taken in circumstances which make a truly informed debate impossible.

The primary reason for this is the inexcusable decision by the Government to hold the referendum on the Amsterdam Treaty and the referendum on the Good Friday document on the same day. This point has been lost sight of in the past week but it is vitally important.

Several surveys have shown that the majority of citizens do not even know of the existence of the Amsterdam Treaty which was signed seven months ago. The government established the Referendum Commission and in the best of circumstances it would have a very difficult job in making up for the information deficit in the period up to May 22. But the conclusion of the multi-party negotiations and the emergence of the Good Friday document have almost totally eclipsed the Amsterdam Treaty issue.

To compound this problem both Government and Opposition parties have insisted on confusing the two issues, thus adding to the lack of clarity on Amsterdam, and hoping that people will pass it on trust. We saw this again today at the joint press conference of party leaders in the Mansion House where the leaders of Fianna Fáil, Fine Gael, the Labour Party, the Progressive Democrats and Democratic Left called for three Yes votes. More people may now know of the existence of the Amsterdam Treaty but few have any knowledge of what it contains, much less an overview of all its implications.

Because of the undemocratic manner in which the government has handled the Amsterdam Treaty the people should vote NO on May 22. The government's handling of this issue has ensured that most people don't know. And if you don't know Vote NO.

It should be remembered that if successive governments had their way, we the people, like those in all the EU states except Denmark, would have no say in the matter of the Amsterdam Treaty.

It was only because of a court challenge by the late Raymond Crotty that we were given a vote in the Single European Act in 1987 and the Maastricht Treaty in 1992. If recent governments had their way we would have totally one-sided referenda with the Yes side using public money to dominate the airwaves. Again we had to rely on a court challenges to ensure our constitutional rights.

How can we trust the word of the parties who made up these governments when they tell us now that our democratic rights are safe under Amsterdam?

The Single European Act, the Maastricht Treaty and now the Amsterdam Treaty have all been steps in the transformation of an economic community made up of sovereign states into One Big State. Sinn Fein is opposed to the creation of such a state because it is fundamentally undemocratic. Those of us who are representatives on local government are acutely aware of the virtual powerlessness of elected local authorities. The people, through their elected representatives, have little or no say in the government of their community, their county or their region. Almost all power is concentrated in the hands of government in Dublin. The creation of one large state in Europe is reducing this state to the level of a county council.

At least in the case of local authorities, powers have been taken away and vested in a democratically elected parliament. But in the case of the European Union we are being asked to cede sovereignty from an elected Irish parliament to a powerful and unelected European Commission, to the European Council, and to the European Parliament where the 26 Counties have 15 out of 626 members.

We are being asked to accept and implement decisions arrived at by a European Council majority on a whole range of new areas, and to abandon our right to veto or opt out when it is in the national interest.

The Amsterdam Treaty clearly undermines Irish neutrality. It commits this State to ``common foreign and security policy'' and the ``progressive framing of a common defence policy''. Having tried to cover up these clauses in the Treaty it is noteworthy that those on the Yes side now no longer deny that Amsterdam opens the way for this State to become involved in military alliances and EU military operations.

The argument from the Yes side now is that if it is proposed that we participate in common defence - that is a military alliance - there would have to another referendum. But there is nothing in the Amsterdam Treaty or in the wording of the present referendum that guarantees a second referendum in that event.

Instead we are relying on the promises of the political parties on the Yes side. Such promises already have been broken. Former Foreign Minister and Labour leader Dick Spring fought the 1992 general election promising a constitutional amendment to put neutrality in the constitution. In two successive governments he reneged on that promise.

The only guarantee for further protection of our neutrality is for the people to reject the Amsterdam Treaty, for the government to return to the negotiating table and seek a protocol similar to that obtained by Denmark, and to hold a new referendum so that neutrality is protected by a definite clause in the constitution.

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