The Government's Lisbon Treaty White Paper is a flawed document, containing some serious distortion of fact. It is unbalanced and heavily politicised, presenting a case that favours the defeated minority in the referendum of last year. It meets only limited and selective reasons behind the emphatic rejection of the referendum on June 12, 2008.
The White Paper questions are not simply for ordinary voters. They are important for all political parties, notably the two main opposition parties -- Labour and Fine Gael. Though both of them are in favour of a 'Yes' vote, they owe a duty to the electorate to defend the democratic rights of all people not to be the victims of distortion of vital national questions.
The issue is serious enough to be a matter for the Referendum Commission. When I listened, earlier this month to Pat Kenny's interview with the new chairman of that commission, Mr Justice Frank Clarke, I was reassured by his approach. I had been seriously critical of the performance of the Referendum Commission during the 2008 referendum campaign, when it demonstrated ignorance over certain issues.
There was no White Paper to contend with. Now there is. Also to be noted: a new Act of the Oireachtas, the 28th Amendment to the Constitution (Treaty of Lisbon) Act 2009, contains a curious addition not present in the 2007 act. This reads: "Ireland affirms its commitment to the European Union within which the member states work together to promote peace, shared values and the well-being of their peoples."
My, oh My! How nice it is to be reminded of the good things that have derived from membership over 35 years.
This is not at issue. One of the fundamentals facing us is that none of these eloquently argued benefits is either at risk or threatened by what the White Paper presents.
The most serious and deliberate misrepresentation concerns the allegedly 'new' double-majority voting system. This voting system is not new. It already exists. But in its altered version, under Lisbon, it is disadvantageous to Ireland. Ireland's vote, on a population count, is significantly reduced, from 2pc to 0.8pc, while at the same time the German vote is doubled.
The importance of the system can be gauged from the fact that it lies at the heart of our influence in making or blocking laws in the EU. It is, therefore, clearly a matter for comment by the Referendum Commission.
A second significant misrepresentation concerns the constitutional changes that derive from the Lisbon Treaty. The very basis on which the genuine benefits of EEC and then EU membership to Ireland were founded was the community which Ireland joined in an optimistic mood under Jack Lynch.
This is being constitutionally replaced, post-Lisbon, by a new European Union with a new legal personality of which, instead of having a 'complementary' relationship, Irish citizens will have an 'additional' European citizenship. The Irish people may wish to surrender the unique and valued nature of their citizenship for a duality of rights and duties. But if so, they should do it with their eyes having been properly opened by a conscientious government.
There are several other areas of uncertainty not clarified by the White Paper. These include taxation, where the White Paper is both contradictory and superficial. For many people, this issue is threatening to livelihoods, even survival. It should be treated with the utmost seriousness.