Launching Labour's Lisbon campaign, Gilmore warns of dangers of complacency
31 August 2009
Launching the Labour Party Lisbon Referendum Campaign, the Leader of the Labour Party, Eamon Gilmore TD, said that the greatest mistake that could be made by those advocating a yes vote is to assume that the proposition is going to be carried on October 2nd.
"Complacency will be the greatest obstacle and I believe that despite the support of the overwhelming majority of political parties and civil organisations, this will be a challenging campaign, with every vote having to be fought for and a close outcome likely on polling day. There can be no comfort drawn from the fact that the most recent opinion polls show a clear majority in favour. The polls were giving a very similar message at the same point in advance of the June 2008 referendum, but the result was very different on polling day.
"The electorate is in an angry mood, largely over domestic political issues that have nothing to do with Lisbon, particularly the reckless and irresponsible decisions taken by the Fianna Fail led government, that plunged the country into such an economic crisis. With unemployment rising to unprecedented levels, families being targeted for a barrage of new taxes and charges and taxpayers facing the prospect of a huge bill to bail out the banks, there is great fear and uncertainty about the future.
"In the current climate it is possible that some angry voters, who may have not problems at all with Lisbon, will be tempted to use the referendum to inflict what they would regard as a blow on the government. I would urge anyone thinking along these lines to reconsider the position. A second defeat for the Lisbon Treaty will do more damage to the country than it will to Fianna Fail. Indeed it is the next government that would have to deal with the consequences.
"At a time when an incoming government should be free to concentrate all its efforts on sorting out the appalling problems created by 12 years of Fianna Fail misgovernment, the inevitable result of a no vote on Lisbon would be that the new administration would have to devote considerable time and resources to trying to salvage our relationship with the EU.
"If voters can be persuaded to put domestic political issues to one side and judge the Lisbon Treaty on its merits then I believe that it can be carried.
"There are three principal reasons why Labour is seeking a yes vote:
1. To help restore international confidence in Ireland so that jobs and businesses can be secured here;
2. To enable Europe to function more efficiently and democratically, to help get Europe and Ireland out of the economic crisis;
3. To improve the rights of the individual in Europe – as citizens, workers and consumers.
"The Labour Party campaigned for a yes vote in last year's referendum because we believe then – as we believe now – that the Lisbon Treaty will lead to a better European Union for its people. It will make the European Union more democratic; improve its capacity to deal with major international problems such as the financial crisis and climate change; and that, importantly, the Charter of Fundamental Rights will steer the EU towards a progressive, human-right based, social Europe that will benefit all of our citizens.
"Taken in conjunction with the changes that have been agreed since June 2008 – the commitment that every country will retain the right to nominate a commissioner and the legal guarantees and declarations on issues that emerged as matters of concern in the last referendum – there is now an even stronger case than there was for a yes vote last year.
"For Labour one of the key benefits of the ratification of Lisbon will be the enactment of the Charter of Fundamental Rights. The Charter will ensure the further integration of the economic and social aspects of EU membership so that they complement each other more effectively and that a better balance is struck between the demands of the market and the needs of society. But without ratification of Lisbon, there will be no Charter of Fundamental Rights.
"The economic climate against which this referendum takes place is immeasurably different than that in June 2008. The past twelve months have been extremely damaging for Ireland's reputation internationally.
"A further no vote would do yet more damage. A strong yes vote on the other hand will show that Ireland is open for business, that we welcome inward investment and the jobs that it brings, and that we are fully engaged and committed members of the EU."