With only days to go until the Lisbon Treaty Referendum, the Seanad had a timely debate on how the Treaty would effect national parliaments yesterday. In the course of this campaign, we have heard numerous accusations that passing the Treaty would be taking away our sovereignty and result in the virtual redundancy of the Oireachtas. This is simply untrue. Below, you will find my own contribution to the debate.
It is important that we have a debate and hear all voices and points of view on this vital proposal before the Irish people on 12 June. It is easy to assert that one respects other points of view but I do so sincerely. We must respect the viewpoints of those who urge the Irish people to vote “No”. Senator Norris complained, perhaps with justification, about name calling and people being blackguarded. I am not looking for a paper medal but I have not engaged in any of that. I am not aware of Members engaging in abuse or comments about people who take a different view – certainly not in this House.
We have debated the treaty on a number of occasions and are now debating the report of the joint committee and the enhancement of the role of parliaments across the EU arising from the reform treaty. The democratic deficit is a serious issue for the EU. We refer to a democratic deficit in our domestic political situation, an argument that can be made, but there is a major problem at the heart of the European project. It may be one that, because of the sheer scale of it, is impossible ultimately to redress. If there is a way of doing it, the drafters of the Lisbon treaty have attacked this problem. There are serious and substantive changes to the way the EU does its business. This will have a positive effect on citizen participation, citizen information and the citizen’s stake in the EU through the national parliaments. There is no doubt the treaty does that. It cannot be gainsaid by anyone that this is not one of the things the treaty does in terms of consultation with parliaments on policy matters, allowing them a real role in upholding the principle of subsidiarity and placing the parliaments in the position of watchdogs on behalf of the people they represent.
I have never claimed that the treaty is a manifesto for workers’ rights or that it achieves all that those of us on the left wish to achieve for workers’ rights, equality and social justice. I say this to all my colleagues but particularly Sinn Féin, a party that has demonstrated a commitment to the principles of equality and social justice. I believe it is the case but also that Sinn Féin is seriously mistaken in the view it takes on the Lisbon treaty as a possible means to advance those principles in Europe. In a recent article, Mr. Fintan O’Toole made the interesting point that this is about having a playing pitch on which we can advance these goals. Politics, struggles and battles are what we must engage in now. I hope Sinn Féin will be part of this in Europe to advance and uphold workers’ rights. That is where Sinn Féin should be instead of seeking to have this treaty rejected, which would have a negative impact on those we represent.
More :: Read the Report of the Joint Oireachtas Committee on European Scrutiny regarding the Role for National Parliaments in the Lisbon Treaty
More :: Read the piece by Fintan O’Toole which I mentioned in my speech (*registration required)
More :: For more information on the Treaty, please visit Labour’s Treaty Website or the Referendum Commission