TAOISEACH Brian Cowen said it is “crystal clear” that the issue of abortion does not arise in the Lisbon Treaty, as No campaigners vowed to make it a central issue between now and the October 2 vote.
Mr Cowen insisted the Irish Government has “absolutely cleared up” through a number of guarantees attached to the treaty, that it will retain control over this and other ethical questions.
“Every reasonable contention would be that there is no involvement whatever by the European Union in that issue,” he said. “We have got that clarification successively and it’s beenreiterated in our guarantees in June.”
The anti-Lisbon group, Cóir, are to move the issues of abortion and euthanasia centre stage in the final two weeks of campaigning, with posters launched at the weekend showing a foetus and an elderly hospital patient under the slogan: “Trust EU Assurances? Not on Their Lives”.
While there has been no clear statement from the Catholic hierarchy that Catholics can in conscience vote Yes, the Bishop of Down and Connor, Noel Treanor, told an Oireachtas committee last week that there was no ethical or moral basis for them not to support the treaty.
He also distanced the church from Cóir saying “there are a number of organisations intent on influencing the outcome of the forthcoming referendum by introducing misleading or inaccurate information”.
Mr Cowen said church leaders “dealt with the matter very adequately” during the first Lisbon referendum last year: “We all are mindful of the fact that we need to keep our Church and state relations separate while being mutually respectful of both. But I think the important point in relation to the issue itself [abortion] is it doesn’t arise in this treaty.
“The guarantees that have been obtained at the European Council last June are crystal clear in this regard. There is no intention, nor predisposition, nor interest by our colleagues in relation to in any way cutting across these fundamental ethical matters that are dealt with within the context of our own constitution.
“The European Union is about respecting difference, respecting diversity and also of course recognising that there are issues of national competence which we have absolutely cleared up in respect of those issues.”
Mr Cowen told a press conference yesterday that voting Yes would give Irish people more self-confidence and galvanise the country to move forward towards economic recovery.
“I think it’s absolutely vital that in the interest of stability and direction for the country and dealing with our problems, that we take positive steps. There’s a need for us all to move to rectifying and finding solutions for our problems rather than continually analysing the scale and size of them.”
New research from the Referendum Commission shows 72% of voters are “highly likely” to vote on October 2 and 18% are “quite likely” to do so.
The survey also reveals a higher level of public understanding of the treaty, with 66% of voters claiming to have “at least some understanding of the treaty”, compared with just 44% who said this on the eve of polling day in June last year.
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