Minimum wage claims the ‘biggest lies’ of campaign

CLAIMS the minimum wage will be slashed if the Lisbon Treaty is passed have been branded the “biggest lies” of the campaign by Foreign Minister Micheál Martin.

The attack came during a stormy debate ahead of the repeat referendum in which leading Yes and No campaigners traded insults and allegations.

The event, held in the window of Dublin department store Arnotts, saw the minister launch an all-out attack on anti-treaty campaigners, who he accused of trying to scare voters into the No camp.

He accused Sinn Féin of “extraordinary duplicity and cynicism”. He said they could claim to be both pro-Europe but anti-Lisbon in the Republic, while in the North they had opposed every European treaty. “It’s a con job,” he said.

But the minister reserved particular anger to rail against No campaigners’ insistence the minimum wage would be severely cut back unless the treaty is voted down for a second time.

Mr Martin said that only the Government with the backing of the Oireachtas would determine the level of the base salary in future.

Environment Minister John Gormley also stepped up his rhetoric by stating that a defeat would plunge the nation into crisis.

Speaking to an Oireachtas committee, he rounded on assertions by Sinn Féin that Lisbon would lead to an increase in military spending.

No campaigner and socialist MEP Joe Higgins accused the Green leader of being the “biggest sellout of any party in the history of the state”.

Mr Higgins said that since entering government the Greens had changed their mind on the effect of the EU on Irish neutrality.

“You have spoken against the European Defence Agency in the past,” Mr Higgins told Mr Gormley. “Earlier this month the European Defence Agency Bill 2009 was published and cleared by cabinet. The Irish cabinet discussed it and found there wasn’t a problem,” he said.

“You went against every principle you said you stood for. You were against the developments of armaments, against militarisation and now you endorse it. Will you at least agree that you are engaged in the most massive hypocrisy or the biggest sellout by any party in the history of the state,” he told the minister.

Mr Gormley said the bill “confines us to those missions which we have always excelled at, namely humanitarian missions and UN mandated missions”.

The heightening of the pro-treaty message also saw Taoiseach Brian Cowen call the referendum a “defining moment in Ireland’s destiny”.

Mr Cowen declined to answer questions from the media at this afternoon’s event and was loudly heckled by two members of the public on his arrival.

Ryanair boss Michael O’Leary also waded into the thick of the debate, insisting the Government was too “incompetent” to secure a Yes vote so he felt the pro-treaty campaign needed his distinctive style of persuasion.

“It is time that Irish people wake up to the fact that we are bankrupt and that we need Europe more than Europe needs us. If we vote Yes on Friday Ireland continues to control both our income tax and our corporation tax rate and that’s what drives so much foreign inward investment in this country and so many thousands of jobs in this country,” he said.

He accused the Government of being lazy and feckless but urged voters to wait until the general election before getting their revenge on Fianna Fáil and the Greens.


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