For the good of EU, Irish must say `yes'

THE Irish referendum campaign on the EU's Lisbon Treaty is in its final throes. By the afternoon of this Friday, we will know whether the European Union is on the path to reform or whether it is stuck in constitutional paralysis.

Andrew Duff MEP

THE Irish referendum campaign on the EU's Lisbon Treaty is in its final throes. By the afternoon of this Friday, we will know whether the European Union is on the path to reform or whether it is stuck in constitutional paralysis. I am off to Dublin to spend the last three days on the campaign trail with my Irish colleagues.

The campaign so far has displayed all the weaknesses of referendums. The lies and distortions about what the Treaty says or means have been wonderful. Apparently, according to hard-line Catholics, Lisbon will impose abortion on Irish brides. A pop star has declared that the Charter of Fundamental Rights means the reintroduction of the death penalty.

The beef farmers blame the new treaty for threatening their fat subsidies. Some rich businessmen claim that Ireland will be unable to keep its competitive rates of corporation tax once the new Treaty is in force.


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Republican nationalists swear that Ireland's traditional, post-colonial 'neutrality' will be over-turned by a militaristic superstate ushered in by Lisbon. Sinn Fein peddles post-Marxist claptrap, and promises a new and better treaty if Ireland says `No.'

Amid all this nonsense, it is sometimes hard for the pro-Europeans to make their voices heard. Gradually, however, their campaign has gained traction. People are beginning to discredit the inharmonious chorus of nay-sayers. Horizons are gradually broadening.

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The importance of the vote, and Ireland's responsibility to the rest of the Union, is starting to be realised. Many would fear Ireland's marginalisation in a Union where only it had refused the package deal of worthy reform measures.

The EU's capacity to act in world affairs will be blunted if Lisbon falls. Those who want Europe to deliver the goods on climate security, poverty and disease are beginning to count the cost of the legal and political mess that would engulf the EU if the Irish say No.

The stakes are high. Sixteen out of 27 member states have ratified so far. The House of Lords reaches its own conclusion this week. The end of the interminable process to reform the EU is in sight. Let's hope the Irish people rise to the occasion.

Andrew Duff is the Liberal Democrat MEP for the East of England. www.andrewduff.eu

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