THE Lisbon Treaty “does not undermine existing legal protections in Ireland for unborn children”, the country’s Catholic bishops have said.
In a statement that was welcomed by the Yes campaign, the bishops also condemned “misleading, incorrect [and] irrelevant” material and said such material “has no place in church buildings or grounds”. This was seen as a clear reference to leaflets left by No campaigners in a number of churches claiming a Yes vote could result in abortion and euthanasia being introduced in Ireland.
The bishops did not urge people to vote a particular way, saying: “While we do not seek to align ourselves with either side of the referendum debate, we wish to make it clear that a Catholic can, in good conscience, vote Yes or No.”
However, their statement will be interpreted as a clear signal that the Church supports Lisbon, after the Bishop of Down and Connor told an Oireachtas committee last week there was nothing in the treaty to justify a No vote for religious or ethical reasons.
“The Lisbon Treaty is of the greatest importance, not only for us here in Ireland but also for the future shape of the European project,” the bishops said last night. They stressed “the responsibility on all of us to vote and to do so with regard not just for our own personal or group interest, but for the good of every citizen and the whole community”.
The bishops did strike one cautionary note, saying that while the very nature of the EU called for a pooling of sovereignty in specific areas, this could not be allowed to weaken the intrinsic principle of “subsidiarity”.
Subsidiarity is the principle whereby the EU does not take action unless it is more effective than action at national, regional or local level in a member state.
© Irish Examiner Ltd. All rights reserved