EU AMBASSADOR to the United States and former taoiseach John Bruton has called for a second referendum on the Lisbon Treaty because Irish people did not understand it when they rejected it the first time.
Mr Bruton said people should be given a “second opportunity” to vote on the treaty, but warned that another rejection would be “a very serious setback” for the country. Addressing the special Oireachtas Committee on the Lisbon treaty, Mr Bruton said: “If I was pushed into a corner and asked I would say I would favour a second referendum.
“It was very difficult for people to understand what it meant. There may be a case for the argument for giving them a second opportunity,” he said. Mr Bruton who has been based in Washington since taking up his position in 2004 also said the Oireachtas should pass legislation giving clarity on requirements for referendums on EU treaties.
“I think the committee should consider whether it is in Ireland’s long-term national interest to put itself in the position of having a wide-ranging, but undefined Irish constitutional roadblock to the adoption of future EU treaties,” he said.
“At the moment, there is no clarity as to when a referendum is needed in Ireland on an EU treaty. I think it would be fairer to everybody if Irish law on this was explicitly clarified.”
Fianna Fáil’s Beverly Cooper Flynn said Irish people value their say in European matters and she would not like to see them deprived of that “for some quick-fix” to get around the Lisbon issue.
Sinn Féin MEP Mary Lou McDonald said the Irish people had the right to have their say in the European project: “I had a suspicion that the purpose of this committee was part of the choreography for a re-run of the Lisbon treaty. But now it has become an exchange of ideas on how a referendum can be set aside.” This idea was rejected by other committee members.
Mr Bruton also said the perception among American businesses that Ireland had “clout” in Europe has been diminished by the rejection of Lisbon and this might effect investment here.
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