TAOISEACH Brian Cowen has moved to ease growing divisions in the Lisbon Treaty yes campaign after Fine Gael and Labour reacted angrily to suggestions they were not pulling their weight.
Mr Cowen drew fire from pro-Lisbon opposition parties over remarks interpreted as rebuking them for not doing enough to ensure the treaty is approved. With the polls tightening ahead of the June 12 vote, tensions in the yes campaign exploded into the open as the Taoiseach was forced to deny engaging in a “blame game”. Fine Gael branded him a “bully boy” as they turned on Fianna Fáil’s “belated and poor” campaign. Mr Cowen attempted to defuse the row as it overshadowed his pro-treaty campaigning drive through west Dublin. “I wasn’t having a cut at anyone. What I was saying was that we are heading into the last two and a half weeks of the campaign and I’m sure we’d all be intensifying efforts, and I look forward to everyone getting out there and making sure we get a yes vote,” said Mr Cowen.
Fine Gael european affairs spokesperson Lucinda Creighton TD, branded the Taoiseach a “bully” saying it was “not very smart” for the him to be seen as attacking pro-Lisbon allies.
“Alienating up to a third of voters who are already unhappy with the mess you have made of the economy, health service and education provision is not a very smart campaign move by Mr Cowen.
“We all know that he is used to trying to bully people into submission, but when it comes to the Lisbon Treaty some persuasion would be more advisable,” she said. “This is the first test of Cowen’s leadership and he is not shaping up too well. It is pathetic to see that, in the face of just one poll, he is attempting to focus blame on the Opposition, rather than leading the nation from the front. Not only is this a sign of desperation, it is not very clever.
“He jumped on the ‘Biffo-Bus’ this weekend and started hurling abuse at Fine Gael following on from his threatening to silence us in the Dáil. That is not the way to get this treaty passed,” she said.
Labour’s european spokesperson Joe Costello also expressed concern at the taoiseach’s stance.
“I would have thought that it was in the interests of all of us on the yes side to concentrate on promoting public awareness of the benefits of the Lisbon Treaty and taking on the false arguments put forward by the no side, rather than sniping at other parties working hard to win ratification,” he said. “Unfortunately we have not been helped by the rather tardy approach of the Fianna Fáil government to the Lisbon Treaty,” he said.
The No camp claims:
* The treaty gives the EU too much power and reduces our ability to stop decisions that are not in Ireland’s interests.
* The president of the council and the high representative — foreign minister — are not elected.
* Each country will be without a commissioner for five of every 15 years which will leave the country without influence at this highest level of the commission and will reduce the amount of information on what is happening.
* The Lisbon Treaty’s beefed up foreign policy role for council will interfere with Ireland’s control over its foreign and security policy and compromises national security interests. They claim it allows the EU to act on the international stage in the same way as a state and to speak on our behalf.
* Allowing nine or more countries to form a permanent structured cooperation in the defence area to assist the UN through international peace missions is the nucleus of a EU army and threatens Ireland’s neutrality.
* National governments’ yellow and red cards can only force the commission to review laws that could be better done at national level. The Dáil and Seanad will each have one vote, which could cancel out one another.
* There are fears that the Oireachtas won’t have enough time and experts to deal in detail with all the legislation it is supposed to vet.
* The European Court of Justice is getting too much power to interfere with decisions relating to EU legislation.
* Transparency where council meetings will be televised when they are taking decisions on laws will force ministers to do their deals in the corridors before meetings.
The Yes camp claims:
* The changes will make EU decision-making more democratic, will make the institutions more accountable to the citizens, will help streamline the workings of the EU and make them more efficient.
* The majority voting system is more democratic than the existing voting weights and the veto, and it will facilitate decision- making in a union of 27 or more members.
* The European Parliament will have much greater oversight of appointments including the commission and of legislation where their committees will discuss drafts mostly in public.
* The European Council will continue to decide the political direction of the union. The president will not change the balance as he/she will have to follow the agenda agreed by the prime ministers.
* Greater coordination in foreign policy will give Ireland influence it does not have as a small country.
* Reducing the number of commissioners by a third from 2014 will make it more efficient and ensure they represent the EU interest rather than their own national interests.
* The Dáil and Seanad will have an input into draft legislation before Irish ministers agree deals in Brussels.
* We will maintain control over our taxes and can opt out of justice and defence changes.
* The member states can take back powers from the EU as well as confer new ones. This treaty does not confer any new exclusive rights to the union. Any new areas are shared between the member states and the parliament.
* The treaty offers a way out of the union for the first time.
* Citizens will be able to appeal to the European Court of Justice if they object to any of the institution’s decisions.
* The citizens initiative means the commission must review or initiate action on foot of a request signed by a million signatures.
© Irish Examiner Ltd. All rights reserved