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Saturday 16 February 2019

'Yes' and 'No' camps attack Roche over call for Lisbon II

Senan Molony Deputy Political Editor

'YES' and 'No' campaigners rounded on Europe Minister Dick Roche yesterday after he said he felt a second Lisbon Treaty referendum would be necessary.

But despite berating the Government for lack of initiative, the opposition were last night unable to offer their own proposals for a way out of the crisis.

Mr Roche made the controversial comments in an interview with the Irish Independent, stressing it was his "personal view at this stage".

Government ministers have mostly insisted it is too early to say how best to proceed with treaty ratification, after the 'No' vote in the June 12 referendum.

Opposition parties yesterday queued up to condemn Mr Roche, although they stopped short of offering their own solutions.

The Labour Party's Joan Burton said Mr Roche's remarks were "unwise and unhelpful", while Fine Gael spokeswoman on European Affairs, Lucinda Creighton, said it showed the Government had "learned nothing from its disastrous referendum campaign".

Fine Gael MEP Gay Mitchell also criticised the remarks, while Sinn Fein MEP Mary Lou McDonald said last night that Mr Roche had "some cheek", adding that his suggestion of a re-run was "another example of a government without a plan".

Ms Burton said it was only three months since the Irish people had voted to reject the treaty and politicians had to respect the verdict of the electorate.

"There can be no question of simply putting the same proposition to the people once again," she said.

"There is no basis for believing that a second referendum would produce a different outcome to the one we got on June 12," she said.

"Minister Roche's comments may simply have the effect of driving even more people into the 'No' camp."

Despite the fact that Labour has not offered its own proposed solution, she criticised the Government for lack of direction.

"The only initiative they have come up with was a totally futile plan to set up a new committee, which would duplicate the work of the existing committee on European Affairs," she said.


"We have had nothing from the Taoiseach or the Minister for Foreign Affairs."

Ms Burton was joined by Mary Lou McDonald, of Sinn Fein, in concluding that Mr Roche was engaged in a kite-flying exercise -- to gauge reaction to a possible second treaty.

"There is no political crisis as Minister Roche has suggested," Ms McDonald said. "There is simply a political task to be dealt with. The Irish people, like the French and Dutch before them, rejected this treaty. A new deal now needs to be negotiated."

But Mr Roche was unrepentant yesterday, saying the victorious 'No' campaign had "not always been frank or honest", but had touted "vague arguments about voting 'No' for a better 'Yes'." And he said that none had explained how to get a better deal.

Gay Mitchell MEP said on radio: "I think he is jumping the gun. I don't think it's helpful. We may have to say at the end of the day that the people have spoken, and take the consequences. But I don't think it's helpful to be coming out in the month of August with proposals or solutions one way or the other."

But he said that his personal view, like that of Mr Roche, was that a second referendum would ultimately be needed for at least part of the treaty provisions.

His colleague, Lucinda Creighton, said that a second treaty would only be rejected a second time unless concerns were addressed.

She said her party fully supported, and still supports, the Lisbon Treaty -- but there were issues including "concerns over social and moral issues, taxation and representation on the European Commission".

The Government should address concerns, "rather than threatening to ram another referendum down people's throats".

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