How Lisbon affects democracy

During canvassing for a Yes vote in Dublin South, I have heard some people say that they are considering voting no in Thursday’s referendum because they do not wish to see the powers of the Oireachtas ‘handed over to Brussels’. As a senator, I must respectfully disagree with this claim.

Of the 60 Senators, I know of only four who are advocating a No vote, and in the Dáil, all the major political parties bar one are in favour of the Lisbon Treaty. The reasons for this outlook are simple.

While there are many reasons to vote Yes on Thursday, as a legislator, I must put forward two reasons on why the Treaty will actually provide more power to the Oireachtas, contrary to what many on the No side believe.

Increasing the role of National Parliaments
For the first time, the Oireachtas will have the powers to examine proposed legislation coming from the EU. If TDs and Senators have objections to that legislation, they can raise their concerns and have the legislation re-examined.

Yet, if Ireland still feels that proposed legislation is contrary to our interests, it can be struck down with the support of a majority of our EU colleagues. As I pointed out yesterday, the majority of what comes from the EU is technical and more important issues such as justice and home affairs are not dealt with in this way.

This is the first time that national parliaments have the opportunity to fully examine the legislation produced by the EU. It is something the Labour party have sought for some time and it can only lead to an enhancement of democracy in the European Union.

Citizens Initiative
Furthermore, the Treaty for the first time allows citizens to get involved in the inner workings of the Union. Where one million European citizens petition the European Parliament regarding a particular subject, it is the duty of the EU to respond.

This is a significant step forward towards opening the European Union up to citizens. I have no doubt that this ‘Citizens Initiative’ will lead to further initiatives in the policy-making process.

While these are just two reasons to vote Yes on Thursday, any suggestion that the Lisbon Treaty will erode Irish democracy should be rejected. If the Treaty is passed, the EU will be more accountable to the Oireachtas and to the citizens of Europe. That can only be a good thing. Vote Yes on Thursday.