FIANNA Fáil and the Government partners have admitted they don’t know what happens next following the electorate’s rejection of the Lisbon treaty but are concerned at the implications.
Taoiseach Brian Cowen said the result was a “considerable disappointment” and “potential setback” to many years of effort at home and in Europe.
“The result does bring about considerable uncertainty and a difficult situation. There is no quick-fix. It will not be resolved easily.
“We will not rush into any particular action now. We need to pause to absorb what has happened and why, and to consult widely at home and with our European partners,” he said.
Mr Cowen refused to be drawn on the reasons the treaty was rejected but said he would be devoting his full political energies to finding a way forward which took into account the concerns reflected by voters.
“I led that campaign and I have to take responsibility for the fact that it has not been successful,” he said.
He voiced optimism however that the crisis could be resolved and Ireland would not lose ground in Europe. “This union has been in this situation before and each time has found an agreed way forward. I hope that we can do so again on this occasion.
“Ireland has absolutely no wish to halt the progress of a union which has been the greatest force for peace and prosperity in the history of Europe.
“We will take the time to explain this to our partners in Europe and the wider international community,” he said.
Minister for Finance Brian Lenihan was not so confident.
“It’s a very sad day for this country and Europe as well,” he said. “We had a lot of influence in Europe. I don’t believe this vote assists our influence in Europe.”
Describing it as a “very serious matter,” he said renegotiating the treaty was not a practical option.
“It’s difficult to see, having gone through plan A and plan B, where plan C lies. We are in uncharted water,” he said.
Minister for European
Affairs Dick Roche echoed that view. “We are in completely uncharted water here. We are in a very, very strange position,” he said. Foreign Affairs Minister Mícheál Martin said the result showed people did not know enough about the treaty and Social Affairs Minister Mary Hanafin said the last few weeks of intense campaigning was a short time into which to cram a lot of information.
Health Minister Mary Harney stressed the need for reconciliation. “We don’t want to see a gulf between the Government’s position now and what the people have decided. The Government’s duty now is to represent the opinion that has been expressed by the people.”
Environment Minister John Gormley said he did not know what would happen now. “I know of no plan B. Lisbon is plan B. I really don’t know what plan C is.”
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