McCreevy: Most states would have voted no

EU Commissioner Charlie McCreevy has risked upsetting colleagues in the yes to Lisbon camp again by claiming 95% of member states would have rejected the treaty if they had held referendums.

He also dismissed as“political nonsense” theongoing criticisms of both him and Taoiseach Brian Cowen for failing to read the treaty in its entirety ahead of the first referendum last year.

That referendum famously resulted in an embarrassing defeat for Mr Cowen and the yes campaign as the public rejected the document.

The Government has since agreed to run a second referendum in the first week of October after securing guarantees from the EU that the treaty will not affect Ireland’s right to set its own policies on taxation, neutrality and abortion.

Speaking in Dublin yesterday, Mr McCreevy admitted the reaction of EU officials in the “Brussels beltway” to the Irish rejection had ranged from shock and horror to temper and vexation.

“On the other hand, I think all the politicians of Europe, all of the heads of state – all of them having to be elected by their people – would have known quite well that if a similar question had been put to their electorates by referendum, the answer in 95% of the countries would probably have been no as well,” Mr McCreevy said.

“The heads of state and politicians would be far more realistic about this and were glad they didn’t have to put the question themselves to their electorates.”

The commissioner said he hoped the treaty would be approved now that people had a chance to reflect on its importance.

“I think most people would accept that being members of the EU club – and particularly membership of the eurozone – has been of great benefit to us in this financial crisis.

“But we are a democracy. These issues will be debated. Hopefully on this occasion the yes side is going to win – for those of us who want the yes side to win.”

Asked by Today FM if he would read the treaty this time, Mr McCreevy responded: “Well, I’m going to stay up every night now for every day of the summer during my holidays reading chapters and I’ll put questions to every journalist I meet as to what different sub-sections are.

“A lot of that is a lot of political nonsense.”

He also rejected suggestions that the Irish electorate had rejected the treaty through ignorance. The opposite was the case because Ireland had debated EU issues in referendums so often, he argued.

“Whereas everybody says we don’t know enough about Europe, I can tell you this: in my humble opinion, the ordinary people of Ireland know a damn sight more about the intricacies of the European framework than nearly all the members of the other [states]. Why? Because we’ve had these questions posed on many occasions to us before. So ... we learn a little bit extra all the time.”

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