Tuesday 19 February 2019

Leaders button-up to bury the hatchet for a 'Yes' vote

Fine Gael leader Enda Kenny, Taoiseach Brian Cowen and Labour Party leader Eamon Gilmore are in unison as they prepare for a
joint press conference urging a 'Yes' vote on the Lisbon Treaty at the National College of Ireland at the IFSC in Dublin
Fine Gael leader Enda Kenny, Taoiseach Brian Cowen and Labour Party leader Eamon Gilmore are in unison as they prepare for a joint press conference urging a 'Yes' vote on the Lisbon Treaty at the National College of Ireland at the IFSC in Dublin

Senan Molony Deputy Political Editor

TAOISEACH Brian Cowen yesterday told the Irish people not to take the risks that would come with voting 'No' to the Lisbon treaty.

Flanked for the first time by Fine Gael leader Enda Kenny and Labour leader Eamon Gilmore, Mr Cowen said the leaders of all three main political parties were urging voters to say 'Yes' in Thursday's referendum.

Mr Cowen said he wouldn't use words like "crisis" or "catastrophe" if the measure failed, although he didn't contemplate anything other than a "successful outcome".

In the event of a rejection, he said he would take whatever level of responsibility was his portion.

But Mr Cowen added: "I think we are going to win this referendum. We don't have to take the risks that come with a 'No' vote."

Fine Gael leader Enda Kenny said Ireland stood at a "crossroads of power and influence," while Labour leader Eamon Gilmore warned the electorate: "This isn't the time for this country to throw a wobbly on Europe."

The three major political leaders made common cause at a public appearance together in Dublin as polls showed the referendum in danger of slipping away and rejectionist sentiments gaining strength. But Mr Kenny said he had detected the beginnings of a swing back to the treaty side as people took time to evaluate what was at stake. Mr Cowen said the Irish people would decide on Thursday if the European Union was central to our future, after 35 years of "positive engagement in the great European project."

He said he believed passionately that Europe was "not about 'them,' but about 'us'." And he queried the agenda of those ranged on the 'No' side from Sinn Fein to Libertas -- mentioning UKIP, the euro-sceptic UK Independence Party, for the first time.

Squabbles

Mr Cowen said he was pleased to appear with "colleagues Enda Kenny and Eamon Gilmore," thereby publicly burying the hatchet after mid-campaign political squabbles.

He said: "We are participants in a parliamentary democracy where adversarial debate is commonplace.

"However, in the midst of different views and opinions, there are issues where we stand together in the overall national interest."

Mr Cowen added that ratification of the Lisbon Treaty is crucial to this country's future prospects.

He said. "I am proud of the effort my party is putting into this campaign and I also want to acknowledge the strong and patriotic contribution shown by people from other political traditions in support of a 'Yes' vote."

His view was echoed by Mr Gilmore who said: "There are times when good political leadership requires us to set aside party differences, and to stand together in the interests of our country. How Ireland votes on Thursday matters.

"It matters for our prosperity today, and for the kind of country, and the kind of world, our children will inherit tomorrow."

Fine Gael leader Enda Kenny claimed that the "stark" opinion poll of last weekend showing the 'No' campaign in the lead had made people sit up and take notice.

Mr Gilmore said that not one single argument in support of a 'No' vote had stood up to the scrutiny and examination of debate. He insisted that the treaty improved workers' rights, "putting a roadblock on the race to the bottom". He added: "The best way to ensure that no European worker is exploited is to have labour laws which apply throughout Europe."

But Libertas founder Declan Ganley, figurehead for the 'No' campaign, said he had bought three air tickets for the political leaders so they could fly to Europe on Friday and begin the process of securing a better deal following a 'No' vote.

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