Wednesday 18 September 2019

Lisbon lies 'will not be tolerated'

DANIEL McCONNELL Chief Reporter

High Court judge and head of the Lisbon Referendum Commission Mr Frank Clarke has warned that those telling lies will have "manners put on them", and said he will actively intervene in the campaign if provoked.

The bold stance being taken by the respected judge is seen as a key development in a campaign that continues to be surrounded by confusion.

Speaking to the Sunday Independent, Judge Clarke said that any erroneous statements must and will be clarified and he intends using the full Commission budget of €4.5m to ensure the greatest level possible of understanding. "Our job is to counteract any misapprehensions that are out there about what is or what is not in the treaty. We'll clarify issues, and if the effect is that it puts manners on people well," he said.

Setting out his stall, Judge Clarke has this weekend made a new intervention to counter a number of untruths being presented by both sides of the campaign.

He said that the declaration that the minimum wage in Ireland would fall below €2 was false. This has been a major slogan of the Coir No campaign.

"The Irish Government sets Ireland's minimum wage. There is absolutely nothing in the Lisbon Treaty that gives the EU power to set the minimum wage at all, full stop."

Commenting on the dangers of intervening directly into a campaign, Judge Clarke said, "While we are being careful not to comment on specific parties, when an issue comes up like the minimum wage then we are more than happy to intervene."

However, he also said that claims that voting Yes for the Lisbon Treaty is a vote for jobs is misleading as the treaty itself contains no guarantees for this. "Claims that ratifying the treaty will affect job levels are political claims. The treaty itself contains no provisions on this," he added.

The Commission last month issued documentation correcting many of the untruths peddled during the last campaign on issues like abortion, neutrality and taxation. Judge Clarke pointed to the mistakes made by the earlier commission that it failed to present the high level of detail in a clear manner and said it didn't focus its attentions on a wide enough audience. "There was a feeling that just putting stuff out on RTE or The Irish Times wasn't sufficient, so this time I am on radio every week and I am doing a column in The Star."

A new opinion poll released this weekend conducted by Millward Brown Lansdowne Research revealed that the treaty is set to be carried by a majority. Of those polled, 53 per cent said that they intend voting Yes.

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