Cowen will not gamble career on vote result

TAOISEACH Brian Cowen has refused to put his political career on the line, if the Lisbon treaty referendum fails next month.

He told voters “it is not about me, it is about the country”.

At the launch of his party’s referendum campaign in The Royal College of Physicians yesterday, he asked the public to put party political sniping aside and focus on getting a yes vote.

“We have had elections. They come and go. There are elections from time to time. This is a national question. This is an issue for all of us to consider as Irish men and Irish women what our future is and what our kids future is?

“It is a critical decision for the country. And, in that respect, it is of huge importance in its own right and it should be treated in terms of this debate in that respect.

“The political coming and goings? That is something that we deal with every other day of the week. Lets deal with this on the basis of its strategic importance.”

The slickly presented campaign launch gathered a high-powered selection of its most senior representatives. Led by Mr Cowen and campaign director Foreign Affairs Minister Micheál Martin, there were 10 senior and junior ministers and at least seven other members of the Oireachtas.

The party said it will campaign vigorously and erect 22,000 posters. This is a significant increase on the amount put up by Fianna Fáil last year. Mr Martin said the party machine would be activated across the country to tackle untruths which seep into the debate and clarify issues the public does not understand.

Mr Cowen said, while he respected the decision of the electorate in June 2008, he did not countenance losing for a second time. “I don’t contemplate defeat. I honestly believe that the people will take account of everything for this referendum and we want to campaign on that basis.”

He refused to state if he would attempt to run the referendum a third time if the electorate said no again.

Last month Ms Martin said at a summer school in Ballina this second vote would be the last chanceeither way.

The Taoiseach said his Government had listened to the concerns of people and these were reflected in the guarantees secured on abortion, neutrality and the presence of a permanent Irish representative on the Commission.

He said it was disingenuous of the no campaigners to dismiss these additional measures.

“What is interesting is that those who put posters up on the other side of the argument on all of these questions now say all these issues are irrelevant. Sometimes people have a wider anti-EU agenda,” he said.

The Taoiseach was ridiculed last time for his admission he had not read the text of the treaty. But this time he said he had read it and the associated white paper.

Asked how it would specifically benefit issues of employment policy in Ireland, he said a more effective decision-making process in Europe would help.

He will not reveal the identity of Charlie McCreevy’s replacement in the European Commission before the vote.


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