SINN Fein’s leader in the Dáil, Caoimhghín O Caoláin, has dismissed claims of a difference of opinion on the Lisbon Treaty between the party’s North and South organisations.
Despite their official stance opposing the Treaty, Deputy O Caoláin yesterday acknowledged the role of Europe in the Good Friday Agreement: “We have acknowledged fulsomely the role of the European Union,” he said.
Outlining his party’s position on the Lisbon Treaty to the Joint Committee on European Affairs, Deputy O Caoláin said the EU has been good for Irish people.
“Make no mistake about it. I can say, despite many misgivings and strong arguments on positions I held over the years in relation to EU Treaties including this one, and while I can point to serious downsides in terms of sectors of our economy .. I can say that on balance, for a greater number of our citizens, the European Union is a good thing.”
He told committee members: “When I say to you that our commitment is to be directly involved in working with all parties here in representing Ireland’s interests in Europe, that is a sincere expression.”
Responding, Fianna Fáil Galway West TD and former Minister for Europe, Noel Treacy said: “Let’s do it together then.”
The pro-Lisbon group, Ireland for Europe, last week wrote to the North’s Deputy First Minister, Martin McGuinness, saying Sinn Féin should withdraw from the No campaign.
The letter argued that Sinn Féin has different positions on Europe in the North and South. It referred to a statement made by Mr McGuinness in April last year saying, in reference to the North, that “we want to continue this journey with our European partners”.
Asked by Deputy Thomas Byrne (FF) if the party was divided on the issue, Mr O Caoláin said: “The only difference that I can see, Deputy Byrne, and to my great great regret, is that we don’t share the same political strength on this side of the border as our party currently enjoys in the Assembly. And if you were in a party of four TDs out of 166 in the Dáil, you would have some idea of the crucifixion that we have to bear every day in dealing with all of you.”
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