A YES vote on Thursday is the “best means” of driving Ireland forward to meet the challenges facing the country, Taoiseach Brian Cowen has said.
“Having helped us to achieve so much in the past, on Thursday we must decide if the EU is also central to our future,” he stated.
Mr Cowen was speaking at a joint press conference with Fine Gael leader Enda Kenny and Labour counterpart Eamon Gilmore as the three men united to urge a yes vote.
“I believe passionately that Europe is not ‘them’, it is ‘us’. It is the greatest enabler of real sovereignty in our history,” Mr Cowen said. “It has enhanced our capacity, in concert with others, to make the decisions that have brought real and lasting benefits to our country.”
While the three parties had separate policies and often clashed, “there are issues where we stand together in the overall national interest and beyond partisan party politics”, Mr Cowen said.
A yes vote would make the EU “fit for purpose” in this century, he added.
Mr Kenny echoed those sentiments, saying the treaty was both profoundly important and “quite simple”.
“It is an agreed response to changing the way that Europe does its business for and on behalf of its people. It is a treaty to change the way our institutions work without mystery or secrecy. That’s what Lisbon is about,” Mr Kenny said.
The EU has 500 million citizens in 27 member states and a union of that scale could not function effectively with “systems geared to a different era”.
Saying yes to Lisbon would allow Ireland and its fellow member states to face the “vast” competition from India, China and other emerging powers in the years ahead.
“Some will claim that there will be no consequences if Ireland rejects this treaty. This is irresponsible and wrong. If we vote no, Ireland’s reputation as a committed and influential member of the European project will be tarnished,” Mr Kenny added.
Picking up that theme, Mr Gilmore said: “These are uncertain times, both in Ireland, and in the global economy. We need to send a message that Ireland is open for business.
“When we go to Berlin, to Boston, or even Beijing to promote Ireland as a destination for investment and for jobs, we need to be clear that Ireland is going forward with the EU, not backing away from it.”
Mr Gilmore admitted the treaty was a “long and complex” document, but said its two simple aims were to make the EU more accountable and allow the bloc to deal with the challenges affecting people.
“It will establish a Charter of Fundamental Rights as part of EU law, striking a better balance between the enhanced rights of citizens and workers and that of the market,” he said.
“Secondly, the treaty mandates the EU to act collectively to tackle the biggest challenges of this generation, such as climate change, energy security, and global poverty, and makes it easier for it to do so.”
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