Fianna Fail accuses anti-treaty campaign of scaremongering
THE Government last night accused the anti-Lisbon Treaty campaign of resorting to "outrageous scaremongering" in a bid to frighten people into a 'No' vote.
Campaigning in Cork for a 'Yes' vote, Taoiseach Brian Cowen and Foreign Affairs Minister, Michael Martin, said they were "shocked" at some of the claims now being levelled by the 'No' campaign.
The claims include suggestions the EU will force Ireland to accept abortion, prostitution, the sale of hard drugs and even the arrest of children as young as three years old.
Mr Martin said the claims were truly shocking -- and were clearly aimed at frightening people into opposing the Lisbon Treaty.
He argued that the poster campaigns being run by various anti-Lisbon groups clearly reflected that point -- because they were totally unrelated to the issues actually involved in the Treaty.
"Even when I say it myself I am astonished by some of these claims," Mr Martin said.
"The Lisbon Treaty does not try to impose social policies -- and I think most Irish people realise and understand that," he added.
"Some of these poster and leaflet campaigns have been incredible," he added.
"I think people are now getting a clearer sense of the wider agenda of these groups. They tend to use European treaties [to promote] their agendas."
The Cork TD argued that Ireland's EU experience over the past three decades has been overwhelmingly positive -- with the Irish economy being transformed thanks to the EU.
Mr Martin said that, in stark contrast to the tenor of the 'No' campaign, the impression at grassroots level in Ireland was extremely positive and pro-European.
"The clear majority of people I have spoken to are very well-disposed towards Europe and the EU," he said.
"For the last two to three weeks, the feedback on the canvass nationally has been very positive."
He expressed confidence that the electorate will ratify the Lisbon Treaty on June 12.
The Taoiseach refused to speculate on the possible turnout -- but said he would be satisfied if it reached 60pc or higher.
The Fianna Fail attack on the 'No' campaign was mirrored by their coalition junior partner, with the Green Party accusing the anti-treaty groups of being "narrow minded" and having unclear agendas.
The party's justice spokesman Ciaran Cuffe signalled out Libertas for particular criticism, claiming it was producing misleading and inaccurate arguments.
"I think it's important we have a mature, level-headed debate about the issues and I don't believe that is happening at the moment," he said.
The outspoken TD made his remarks at a conference meeting of "leading environmentalists", which included Green Party Minister Eamon Ryan and Green Party Senator Deirdre deBurca.
They were joined by broadcaster Duncan Stewart and environmentalist Bruce Darrell. The Green party, which has always previously campaigned against European treaties, is precluded from launching an all-out campaign, after it failed to get enough members' support to take a stance.
The party therefore used the platform of "environmentalists" to set out its stall.
In scathing criticism of Libertas, Mr Stewart said the group was attempting to undermine the EU and making inaccurate statements on climate change and the environment.
"They have absolutely no interest in the environment or tackling climate change and we cannot be misguided by misinformation," he said.
"We need to know what's behind the agenda of Libertas. This is an organisation that has come from nowhere, that has no track record in this country."
Last night, a spokesman for Libertas said the move showed that the Greens "had become polluted by ambition".
He also rejected the suggestion that Libertas would disappear after June 1, and claimed the group would be around for a "long time to come."