Celebrities join forces for yes to Lisbon

IRELAND soccer captain Robbie Keane and U2’s The Edge are among the high-profile celebrity names who will be campaigning for a yes vote in the Lisbon treaty referendum, the date of which is expected to be formally decided tomorrow.

Nobel laureate Seamus Heaney and author Deirdre Purcell are also involved in the new campaign group, Ireland for Europe, which insists it will not allow politicians to mess up the yes campaign.

Taoiseach Brian Cowen yesterday refused to put his neck on the line by committing to stepping down if the referendum, expected on October 2, is not passed. “My name isn’t on the ballot paper,” he said in an interview with RTÉ radio.

“What is on the ballot paper for the Irish people is where this country is and where our country is in the European Union going forward. I believe that, in a referendum, that decision by the Irish people will be a positive one.”

Mr Cowen said a strong yes campaign is vital and said it was significant that there were “people within the wider society who are organising to ensure that the full case is pushed”.

He said: “This is not a party political issue, we have had the electoral contests, people have the results.

“What we now have to face into in respect of this campaign is all of us who are in favour of Ireland being in Europe, who are absolutely convinced that the yes vote is fundamental to our national interest and where we are going as a country in terms of our standing and reputation within Europe. It is important that we work together on this.”

The Taoiseach also said a yes vote gives Ireland a better chance of coming out of recession.

Director of Ireland for Europe and former president of the European Parliament Pat Cox criticised the campaign run by politicians in the last Lisbon referendum and said they will have to do better this time. “Our big hope is, in relation to the message they bring to the Irish people, that it will be focused, coherent and consistent. If they do that, they will do something good. We all saw the last time that faces on posters is not a substitute for a campaign,” he said at the launch of the group in Dublin’s Temple Bar yesterday.

He said the celebrities endorsing the campaign are determined “not to be a name on a sheet of paper” and will be involved in “an activity-based and action-driven campaign”.


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