Tuesday 20 November 2018

Revealed: why we voted 'No' to Lisbon

Fionnan Sheahan in Luxembourg

ALMOST three-quarters of people who voted 'No' in the Lisbon Treaty referendum mistakenly believed the pact could be easily renegotiated.

A major survey of voters conducted by the European Commission immediately after last Thursday's referendum reveals why a majority of Irish people rejected the treaty.

The publication of the first research into the reasons behind the 'No' vote comes as Taoiseach Brian Cowen and Foreign Affairs Minister Micheal Martin desperately attempt to garner support across the EU to help Ireland resolve the crisis caused by the result.

The poll of 2,000 voters found:

- Young people voted 'No' by a margin of two to one.

- The vast majority of women voted 'No'.

- A large number of people who do not vote in general elections voted.

- People who did not understand the treaty voted 'No'.

- The huge influx of immigrants into the country was a factor in the 'No' vote.

- More than 70pc of 'No' voters thought a second treaty would be negotiated.

This belief is being attributed to the Nice I and II scenarios, where the treaty was re-run in a referendum after assurances were given on Ireland's neutrality.

The findings show immigration was an unspoken factor in the vote, as people expressed concern about the numbers of immigrants coming to the country in such a short time. The rise in unemployment, allied to foreign workers coming to the country, was also cited.

Mr Cowen faces a battery of questions today on this week's EU Council meeting as he returns to the Dail for the first time since the referendum defeat.

European Union foreign ministers vowed yesterday to keep the treaty alive, despite the vote, but conceded they had no quick solution to salvage it.

But EU leaders will expect to hear from Mr Cowen at a summit in Brussels later this week on whether he sees any hope of winning a new referendum. The second referendum step has not been ruled out by ministers, but is a high-risk strategy.

Mr Cowen acknowledged that Ireland faced a "dilemma" over the defeated treaty, after he emerged from a meeting with British prime minister Gordon Brown.

In an effort to win the support and understanding of his EU counterparts, he met Mr Brown for 20 minutes during the visit of US President George W Bush to the North.

The input of Mr Brown was described as both "measured and constructive" by the Taoiseach. But he also conceded that the Government is now facing a "dilemma" and a "problem".


"I think we are setting the scene for a process of work that needs to take place. It doesn't reduce the fact that there is a dilemma here, that there is a problem here that we have to face and confront," he said.

"But I think we have to do it calmly and collectively and do it in a way which seeks to push matters forward."

Mr Martin said none of his EU counterparts blamed the Government for the crisis.

He said all countries vowed to work with Ireland to find a solution to the problem and there were no threats of exclusion from the EU's future.

Meeting EU representatives for the first time since the defeat of the referendum, Mr Martin said the mood was one of a "sense of solidarity".

EU Commissioner Charlie McCreevy earlier warned that Ireland would not be "bullied" by the EU.

Although he said it was possible "new arrangements" could be made between the Government and EU leaders on the way forward, he said the "sovereign decision" of the Irish people had to be respected.

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