Wednesday 13 December 2017

We didn't need full vote on Lisbon: FG

Senan Molony Deputy Political Editor

MEP Gay Mitchell has questioned whether the Irish people should ever again be asked to adjudicate on complex European issues.

The Fine Gael MEP asked whether a referendum was "the right vehicle" for issues such as the ratification of the Lisbon Treaty.

"People will say that he would say that, because he was on the losing side," Mr Mitchell told a Dail committee yesterday.

But he argued that now was "the time to lift the rock" on all matters. "We have to ask ourselves about this form of instrument of public policy," Mr Mitchell said. "Is a referendum the right vehicle?"

The Government had accepted the good faith of the Attorney General that a plebiscite was necessary on Lisbon, but Mr Mitchell said he doubted it was necessary for the whole document to be put to the people.

Some of the treaty could have been cleared by legislation, he said, and the rest put to the popular vote. He called for the Attorney General's advice on the subject to be made available to the joint committee on European scrutiny.

He added: "The last thing we need now is (French) President (Nicolas) Sarkozy riding into town with instructions and advice. What we need now is reflection by the Irish people themselves."

He also claimed that RTE's coverage of the Lisbon Treaty referendum was unintentionally unfair and called for an independent review of the role of the state broadcaster in its coverage of important issues.

"I really do believe that RTE's performance as a public service provider needs to be independently analysed."

Foreign Affairs Minister Micheal Martin told the same committee, however, the Government does not tend to publish the Attorney General's view on matters before Cabinet. It was a long-standing precedent, he said.


Mr Martin said he believed in the referendum as a means of democratically determining the popular will.

"I think it is a Constitutional imperative anyway," he added.

"Just because you lose one doesn't mean you have to question the whole format."

He said he didn't think Mr Sarkozy intended to visit Ireland this month in the method suggested by MEP Mitchell. "I believe his commitment is genuine to resolve the difficulty."

Mr Mitchell called for an analysis of the effectiveness of the Referendum Commission, and that of the Forum on Europe, which was not communicating "beyond a certain elite".

Mr Martin said he personally thought the Referendum Commission had a reasonably good campaign.

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