Calling for a yes vote in the Lisbon treaty referendum, he said Ireland had enjoyed huge economic benefits from being a member of the EU. Among those was the fact the EU could negotiate as a large trading bloc with Russia on energy prices. If individual member states had to negotiate individually with Russia, they would have far less influence and pay far more for Russian gas, and failing to ratify the Lisbon treaty could see Ireland isolated, he suggested. “We in Ireland are the most dependent of all of the countries in Europe on ultimately, Russian gas,” he said. “The Russians will run rings around us if we are not coherent and united in the negotiations.” This reality did not just apply to energy prices and Russia, he said. It was also true of negotiations with other global powers, such as China over the issue of Darfur. European Affairs Minister Dick Roche pointed out that a no vote could have a negative effect on the euro and the economy. “Ireland as the country that has the most open economy, that is most dependent in terms of creating jobs, most dependent in terms of our economy and exports, will certainly not be serviced by a no vote,” he said.
Foreign Affairs Minister Micheál Martin said the EU was now at a crossroads and Ireland would decide the union’s future path.
“It is up to us to decide if Europe will move forward with confidence and grapple effectively with the many challenges of the 21st century,” he said. “Alternatively, we can stall the union and plunge it into uncertainty at a time of great global economic turbulence.”
He said that, in terms of effectiveness, the EU was clearly greater than the sum of its parts. “This is a fact which benefits every member state. It is one from which we especially have benefited.”
Meanwhile, a joint effort by Fianna Fáil, Fine Gael and Labour to canvass voters in Dublin was briefly overshadowed by a no voter.
Children’s Minister Barry Andrews, Fine Gael leader Enda Kenny and Labour leader Eamon Gilmore took to O’Connell Street in Dublin to appeal to pedestrians for a yes vote. But the protestor, a member of socialist republican group Éirígí, followed them around with a microphone and interrupted their efforts. The protestor was dressed as “Uncle Sam”, but in the colours of Europe, and urged pedestrians to vote against “a United States of Europe”.