Home > Irish "No" camp: EU treaty bad for democracy

Irish "No" camp: EU treaty bad for democracy

by Open-Publishing - Wednesday 11 June 2008

Europe Referendum European Constitution referendum

Critics of the European Union reform treaty in Ireland, which will vote on the document on June 12, are a diverse group united by the idea it would undermine democracy.

Opponents include pacifists, anti-abortionists, nationalists and a handful of business people who share the view that Ireland and its people will be left with a weaker voice.

A new opinion poll on Friday indicated their campaign may succeed. Rejection from Ireland, the only EU country to hold a referendum on the pact, could unravel years of wrangling over how the fast-expanding bloc should be run.

"On the democracy issue, across the ’No’ campaigners, you will find that is a key concern emerging," Mary Lou McDonald, a European Parliament deputy for Irish nationalist party Sinn Fein, said in an interview.

The "No" camp argues the treaty will give more powers to the EU, strengthen larger states at the expense of smaller ones and leave loopholes enabling the bloc to compromise Irish neutrality and dilute its control over tax, trade and abortion.

Irish Prime Minister Brian Cowen has accused the treaty’s opponents of spreading fear and confusion by campaigning on extraneous issues not affected by it. In some cases independent voices have agreed with him.

Ireland’s referendum watchdog, tasked with informing the public about the issues, and the Catholic Archbishop of Dublin have rejected concerns the treaty will open the way for the EU to weaken Ireland’s strict abortion and euthanasia laws.


Think-tank Libertas, headed by businessman Declan Ganley, believes the treaty gives up power to "an unelected elite in Brussels" and that it is little more than a rehash of the EU constitution rejected by French and Dutch voters in 2005.

"The fact that less than 4 million people in Ireland should ... shove this thing down the throats of almost half a billion citizens of Europe who are not being given a say on the issue ... would be anti-democratic in itself," Ganley told Reuters.

Opponents say smaller states will see their share of votes shrink on the decision-making European Council as it is weighted according to population size. They also object to states losing permanent representation on the European Commission executive.

Cowen said Ireland had ensured Commission posts would rotate equally between all countries, regardless of their size.

"What we have achieved in this treaty ... is the whole question of expressing equality of treatment for all countries," he told broadcaster RTE on Friday.

Pro-treaty parties say that as well as strengthening EU leadership, the pact will give national parliaments a say in drafting laws, reviewing proposals, and demanding amendments when at least one-third of them object.

"No" campaigners say whichever way the vote goes, they have at least ensured a proper debate in a country where almost the entire political establishment is backing the treaty.

"We have forced them at least to some extent to actually knuckle down and deal with concrete issues," said Sinn Fein’s McDonald. "People are in the business of deciding." (Reuters)

For more stories on the referendum, visit:
http://uk.reuters .com/news/globalcoverage/EUreferendum