Irish neutrality set to play lead role in EU referendum

6 September 2009

Irish neutrality set to play lead role in EU referendum

On 2nd October Ireland will vote on the Lisbon Treaty, the second version of the rejected European Constitution. The most important question for the Irish people is whether the Treaty will put an end to Irish neutrality. This was the conclusion which Harry van Bommel brought back from a conference in Shannon, in the west of Ireland.

Harry van BommelTogether with politicians from Germany, France, Greece and Britain, Van Bommel was one of the guest speakers at a conference organised by the Irish peace movement. According to the SP Member of Parliament, the Irish people are extremely attached to their neutral status and aren't prepared to see their country dragged into NATO by the back door.

The Treaty of Lisbon contains a lengthy paragraph on the EU's military aspects, which introduces a duty to go to the aid of any member state which has been subject to terrorist attack, obliges member states to improve military capacities year-on-year, and lays down the tasks to be performed by the European Defence Agency.

On 2nd October voters in the Republic of Ireland will be asked to vote for a second time on the Treaty of Lisbon. In June 2008, after a fierce campaign by both sides, 53% voted to reject the treaty. Latest opinion polls say 46% intend to vote yes, 29% no, with the rest having yet to make up their minds. According to Roger Cole, Chair of the Peace and Neutrality Alliance (PANA), this is not a cause for pessimism: "The no-camp was miles behind a month before the last referendum," he notes, "but had no difficulty catching up. A great majority of those who have doubts end up voting against."

The Irish government is campaigning for the Lisbon Treaty by pointing to the EU's economic significance and the consequences of the financial crisis. Van Bommel believes that this is having little impact on the Irish people. "The current Irish premier Brian Cowen doesn't come over as having much credibility in these matters," he explains. "Until last year he was finance minister and did nothing about the loss of employment in Ireland or the collapse of the housing market. His party has lost half of its support in the polls and if the crisis is indeed to play a role in the referendum then this will certainly be in the no-camp's favour."

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