Friday 22 February 2019

Voting 'No' may lose us right to commissioner, warns Cowen

An Taoiseach Brian Cowen and Senator Mary
O'Rourke on the 'Yes' vote campaign trail at
Kilbeggan Races yesterday
An Taoiseach Brian Cowen and Senator Mary O'Rourke on the 'Yes' vote campaign trail at Kilbeggan Races yesterday

Fionnan Sheahan Political Editor

Taoiseach Brian Cowen last night warned Ireland may not get the same right to an EU commissioner as the larger countries if there is 'No' vote in the referendum.

Each country is set to lose its commissioner for five out of every 15 years, under the new structures contained in the Lisbon Treaty.

But a 'No' vote will mean no guarantee of securing as good an outcome as every country getting the exact same treatment, the Taoiseach said.

Mr Cowen cautioned the only way to ensure Ireland got the same right as Germany on the commissioner carve-up was to vote 'Yes'.

Reduced

Otherwise it may mean the return of talk about larger countries having permanent commissioners and the smaller ones rotating or having junior posts.

The number of commissioners will be reduced from 27 to 18, meaning not every country will have a permanent representative.

Mr Cowen said 'No' campaigners in Sinn Fein and Libertas have been "making a part- icular play about the reduction in the size of the commission".

"What they haven't said is that, under the current law of the union, the commission will be cut in size -- however, if we vote 'No', the manner of that reduction will remain open and there will be no guarantee that we will secure as good an outcome," he said. "When we began negotiating this Treaty there was significant talk of the larger countries having permanent commissioners and the smaller ones either rotating or having more junior posts.

"We demanded full equality and we won full equality. As a result, Ireland with 4 million people will have exactly the same representation as Germany with 80 million people. If you want Ireland to have guaranteed equal rights in the commission then you should vote 'Yes'," he added.

The Taoiseach said one of Ireland's key goals in negotiating the treaty was to make sure that smaller countries retained their influence in a much larger European Union.

Pushing the economic argument for ratification, Finance Minister Brian Lenihan said a 'Yes' vote for the EU Lisbon Reform Treaty is the right message for Ireland to send out to investors around the world.

"Key reasons why Ireland secures so much foreign direct investment into our country are because we are in the single market, we are in the Eurozone and we are at the centre of the decision-making process in Europe.

"That is why we have over 130,000 people who are directly employed in nearly 1,000 IDA backed companies in Ireland. These companies generated tax receipts valued at over €3bn for Irish Government spending programmes last year alone," he said.

Meanwhile, Labour Party leader Eamon Gilmore yesterday condemned what he described as the "strident and hysterical tone of the anti-Lisbon campaign".

Divorce

Mr Gilmore said these groups included people who are opposed in principle to the EU and who have opposed every single social reform in this country.

"The same people brought us the 'Hello Divorce: Goodbye Daddy' poster in 1996 which is typical of the misleading and alarmist tactics they specialise in.

"They are an intolerant and unrepresentative minority. The electorate should resist attempts to be frightened or intimidated into a 'No' vote. There are plenty of independent sources of information available to voters that will verify that none of these issues have anything to do with Lisbon and that the ratification of the treaty bring additional rights and protections for Irish workers; for Irish women; and for Irish children," he said.

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