Last night was the last in our series of meetings on the Lisbon Treaty. The series really has worked out very well for myself and the constituency of Dublin South. I opened the meeting last night by saying that the most important thing about the Treaty was to publicise information on the Treaty.
My guests were Peadar O Broin author of ‘The Consolidated Version of the Treaties’ and Blair Horan of the CPSU. Peadar told the audience that the Lisbon Treaty was about making the EU work more efficiently and transparently.
“We have to remember that when this project started they were working from a model that suited six countries. In 2008, we have 27 countries working under that same project. The Treaty aims to tidy up and clarify the workings of the EU,” he said.
Blair told the audience that the Treaty would result in the Charter of Fundamental Rights becoming legally enforceable.
“People are right to say that the rights contained in this are nothing new, but what is new is the fact that the Treaty will guarantee those rights for every citizen. I think that that is important to stress. What we are dealing with is not just an economic market but a social market, too.”
An interesting and comprehensive Q&A took place following the addresses. There were some very strong and passionate views brought forward from members of the audience, with both the Yes and No sides represented.
One thing that struck me was the concern that some in the audience had regarding the Treaty, and the element of fear associated with it. I believe Peadar dealt very well with the crux of some of the arguments.
In response to questions on our neutrality, all three speakers stated that the ‘Triple Lock’ mechanism stays in place, whereby any military participation needs to be accepted by the Government, the Oireachtas and there needs to be a UN Mandate allowing us to enter. Peadar gave an example of the EU peacekeeping presence in FYR Macedonia and said that Ireland could not get involved because there was no UN Mandate for such peacekeeping.
Concern was also raised about the fact that only one mainstream party was against the Treaty and what this meant for democracy. I was quick to point out that the Labour Party had gone through the entire document and weighed up the pros and cons. If the party were to decide against the Treaty it would be dishonest to the people of the country.
Nonetheless, the beauty of Irish democracy is that it is a peoples’ vote and not a political vote.