BRIAN Cowen yesterday issued a clear warning to Fianna Fáil politicians to vote for the Lisbon treaty or face the consequences.
In 2001, Éamon Ó Cuív, then a junior minister at the Department of Agriculture, famously revealed he had voted against the Nice treaty in that year’s referendum.
However, he was not disciplined by the then taoiseach Bertie Ahern and was in fact promoted to a senior ministry a year later. He subsequently voted for the treaty in the second referendum, held in October 2002. Yesterday, Mr Cowen made clear he would tolerate no such dissent this time round.
“Take it from me that all of the members of the Fianna Fáil parliamentary party support this treaty,” he said. “And if there were to be anyone — and I don’t know of anyone, but just taking the hypothetical — who had a conscientious problem, they would have to consider that outside the context of my party.” Mr Cowen played down fears that a low turnout could damage the prospects of a yes vote.
Now that the referendum had been called and campaigning was under way, people would turn their mind to the issues at hand, he said. He admitted Bertie Ahern’s resignation and his own elevation had dominated political debate recently. “There is no question about that. But... the fact of the matter is that people get on with their lives until the launch begins, until the campaign begins, and people then begin to address themselves to the issues.”
Fianna Fáil will launch an outdoor advertising campaign, issue leaflets to households and campaign on the doorsteps. It will also have a campaign bus touring the country, with all its ministers participating between now and polling day. It is expected Fianna Fáil will spend about €500,000 on its campaign. Fine Gael expects to spend a similar amount, while Labour has committed itself to spending €200,000.
Mr Cowen said he believed the “basic disposition” of the Irish people was pro-European. “I don’t accept for a moment that there is some sort of a national amnesia out there about what Europe represents for Ireland.”
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