Cowen hopes unpopularity will not hamper yes vote

TAOISEACH Brian Cowen has downplayed suggestions that Fianna Fáil’s massive unpopularity will affect how people vote in the Lisbon Treaty referendum.

A poll published last week showed the party at an all-time low of just 17%, with the Taoiseach’s own approval ratings at just 15%.

That has led to fears among the Yes campaign that the electorate might again reject the treaty in protest at the Government.

But Mr Cowen expressed hope that people would rise above party politics. “I think the people of this country recognise that this is an issue that’s above party politics, that’s above domestic politics. It’s a strategic decision for the country.”

Mr Cowen also criticised claims made on posters by no campaigners Cóir that the minimum wage here could fall to just €1.84 per hour if Lisbon were passed.

The impartial referendum commission has stated the EU has “absolutely no competence” in relation to the minimum wage.

Mr Cowen said there was no basis for Cóir’s claim. “I would emphasise to people that just because they’re on a placard doesn’t mean it’s true.”

Meanwhile, Defence Minister Willie O’Dea has published legislation setting out the parameters for Irish participation in European Defence Agency operations.

The agency was created in 2004 to help member states “develop their defence capabilities for crisis-management operations”.

Participation by Ireland in EDA operations will require prior Government and Dáil approval. In addition, any participation can only be for enhancing capabilities for UN-mandated missions.

He stressed that any decision to participate in EDA operations “remains fully and completely within Ireland’s hands”.

Elsewhere, Socialist MEP Joe Higgins launched his campaign against Lisbon, saying it did not enhance the position of workers. “With the passing of Lisbon it would still be as legal for employers, including highly profitable companies, to sack workers and ‘outsource’ their work in order to avail of much cheaper labour for maximisation of profit.”


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