Saturday, 6 December 2008

McCreevy: Irish No should be respected

Irish EU commissioner Charlie McCreevy has argued that the negative result of his country’s referendum on Europe’s Lisbon treaty should be respected, admitting that the No campaign had won the argument against “the might” of media and most politicians.

“We live in a democracy. Mr [Declan] Ganley decided that he was going to front a campaign to get the Irish people to vote No. He was singularly successful in that against the might of all the political parties in Ireland,” Mr McCreevy said in an interview with “Hot Press” magazine.

Referring to Declan Ganley, the founder of the Libertas group, which emerged before the June vote to fight against the treaty ratification in Ireland, Mr McCreevy said that Mr Ganley had won the argument “because the Irish people listened to him more than anybody else.”

The outspoken commissioner, responsible for internal market affairs, also argued that Ireland’s referendum results should be taken as a true indication of voters’ opinion as the turnout suggested that a “considerable segment” of treaty opponents were those who had failed to vote in last year’s general election.

The referendum saw 53.4 percent of participants casting their vote against the Treaty while 46.6 percent voted in favour, in a 53.1 percent turnout.

“People did take the issue very seriously. So that has to be respected,” said Mr McCreevy, just days before the Irish government is expected to tell other member states that it is planning to hold a new vote on the Lisbon treaty next year.

At this year’s final meeting of EU premiers and presidents on 11-12 December in Brussels, Irish Taoisheach Brian Cowen is expected to suggest that Dublin could organise a new referendum if it wins a declaration covering the key concerns of voters.

The statement should include a clarification about the country’s exclusive right to choose its tax and family law policy and maintain its strong principle of neutrality.

Mr Cowen will also require a change in the package of institutional reform included in the treaty by re-introducing the right for every country to keep its member in the European Commission, the EU’s key regulatory body.


Mr McCreevy, Ireland’s current commissioner, was widely blamed himself for playing a part in the Lisbon defeat, when, ahead of the June referendum on the treaty, he remarked on the complexity of the document.

In an interview for EUobserver last May, Mr McCreevy admitted he had only read a simplified version of the treaty and did not expect many other politicians and ordinary people to enjoy reading the legal document.

“I would predict that there won’t be 250 people in the whole of the 4.2 million population of Ireland that have read the treaties cover-to-cover. I further predict that there is not 10 percent of that 250 that will understand every section and subsection.”

“But is there anything different about that?” said the commissioner, adding: “Does anyone read the finance act?” referring to the lengthy documents he drew up when he was finance minister in Ireland.

Following the June vote, Martin Schultz, the Socialist leader in the European Parliament called on the commission president, Jose Manuel Barroso, to have a tough word with Mr McCreevy for such “disappointing remarks,” adding: “That is an arrogance that we cannot put up with.”

But in the interview published on Thursday, the Irish commissioner said he does not regret the remarks.

This article first appeared on EU Observer