Ireland: Stronger with Europe

Speech by the Taoiseach, Brian Cowen TD at the launch of the Fianna Fáil Referendum Campaign

Speech by the Taoiseach, Brian Cowen T.D., at the Launch of the Fianna Fáil Referendum Campaign Dublin, 2nd September 2009

An chéad mhí eile, rachaidh muintir na hÉireann i mbun vótála i gceann de na reifrinn is tábhachtaí i stair na Tíre. Cinnfidh an toradh cibé an bhfuilimid ag iarraidh oibriú le daoine eile chun fadhbanna éagsúla a shárú nó an bhfuilimid ag iarraidh seasamh linn féin. Cinnfidh sé freisin cibé an ndéanfaimid athchóiriú ar an Aontas chun dul i ngleic le fadhbanna an lae inniu nó é a fhágáil mar atá. Creidimid go bhfuil Éire níos láidre mar chuid den Eoraip agus go dteastaíonn Eoraip athchóirithe uainn ar fad. Creideann Fianna Fáil go bhfuil Conradh Liospóin riachtanach d'Éire agus don Eoraip ar fad. Ní mór a rá go bhfuil na ceisteanna atá os ár gcomhair ar an dara lá de Dheireadh Fómhair an-difriúil ó mholadh na bliana seo caite. Tá difríocht shuntasach sa substaint agus sna himpleachtaí de bharr gur éist ár gcomhpháirtithe sa Aontas le muintir na hÉireann.  Tháinig cheisteanna as vóta na bliana seo caite maidir leis an imní a bhí ar dhaoine maidir le impleachtaí an Chonradh.  Dá bharr sin fuair muintir na hÉireann ráthaíochtaí dlíthiúla on Aontas atá cuimsitheach agus docht..

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In exactly one month the Irish people will go to the polls in one of the most important referendums in our history. The result will decide whether we want to work more effectively with others to overcome shared problems.


It will decide whether we will reform the Union to tackle today's problems or leave it hindered by out of date rules. It will decide, at this time of unprecedented crisis, whether we want Ireland to be at the heart of Europe or to take a different and more uncertain route.

Because we believe that Ireland is stronger with Europe, that Ireland needs a reformed and dynamic Europe, Fianna Fáil believes that Ireland and the rest of Europe needs the Lisbon Treaty.

Europe Has Listened to the Irish People

Let no one be in any doubt on one basic issue; the question before the people on October 2nd is very different from last year's proposal. Its substance and its implications differ significantly because our EU partners have listened to the Irish people.

After last year's vote we wanted a process focused on addressing the concerns of the Irish people alone - not one where there would be 27 different agendas. We went to the other members of the Union and asked them to respect the vote by providing a detailed response to those concerns. They have done.

Last year's vote turned on a number of specific issues where the people were concerned about the potential impact of the Treaty. The new legal guarantees which the Irish people have received are both comprehensive and legally watertight in addressing these issues.

As a result, people can now vote knowing that their concerns about the possible adverse impact of the Treaty on taxation, neutrality, abortion, worker's rights and social protection have been fully dealt with. Every member state has agreed to measures which confirm clear limits on the potential impact of the Treaty. The Treaty cannot be read without these new guarantees to Ireland and these guarantees provide a completely new level of protection for the Irish position.

In addition, it has been agreed that if we ratify the Treaty Ireland and every member state will continue to have a full member of the European Commission. If Lisbon is rejected, the Commission will have to be reduced in size almost immediately, under the current Treaty rules. In practical terms, the only way that we can save our Commissioner is by voting Yes.

Any fair person looking at the response to last year's vote can see that Europe has listened and responded, and that the proposition has changed.

There are those who are now claiming that the issues addressed by the guarantees are irrelevant. These are the same people who last year erected thousands of posters about our Commissioner, tax, neutrality and the other issues. I have no doubt that the Irish people are too intelligent to allow this sort of cynicism to succeed.


Ireland Needs Europe

The retention of a Commissioner and the Irish guarantees allow this debate to focus on the real issue at hand: Why we need an EU reformed by the Lisbon Treaty.

Now, even more than before, the scale of the problems faced by countries in the modern world is too big to be tackled alone. The only way that countries like Ireland can succeed is to be willing to be part of strong multi-national organisations.

The European Union is the most successful multi-national organisation in world history. Its success has been based on the fact that member states try to make sure that it is tackling the problems of today not those of the past. This requires a willingness to change both the Union's procedures and its powers.

History shows that a Union frozen in the past is of no use to anyone, but a Union which is more dynamic and effective is essential for our future.

If you take only the period since the start of last year, you can see many examples of why we need the reforms of the Lisbon Treaty.

During the largest economic and financial crisis in seventy years, the President of the European Council has changed five times already. This would cause trouble in a local sports club, to say nothing of a
Union of 27 countries covering almost 500 million people. Lisbon will ensure orderly continuity in the chair, while protecting the rights of countries to influence the agenda.

In the face of energy crises, the Union has been seriously hampered in its powers and ability to respond. Lisbon will give the Union the powers we need it to have so that it can safeguard energy supply for
our people and for our economy.

Cross-border crime is an ever-growing problem, with the action of international gangs impacting on communities throughout Europe. Lisbon will help the Member States including Ireland to be more
effective in tackling these criminals who make their money from crime such as drugs and sex-trafficking.

Working under outdated rules, the EU can be slow to respond, even when countries agree on the need for action.


Do we believe in standing alone to fight these problems or do we believe in working together with others to overcome them? This is what is at the heart of EU membership and it's what is at the heart of the Lisbon Treaty.

Yes for the Economy

For obvious reasons the economy will and should be a central issue in this campaign. No matter what way you look at the issues, a strong, active and reformed EU is essential to our economic recovery.

Without the EU much of our past economic growth would have been impossible.

A small island on the periphery of a continent needs a lot more than just access to a market. The EU gives us a level playing field through its enforcement of common rules - and it makes sure that social progress and economic development go hand in hand. It helps business, but it also protects workers. In the face of global storms it supports its members.

Our position as positive members of the Union, seen as participating in rather than fighting against the Union's development, has given us a critical competitive advantage in attracting investment and jobs. Anyone who has ever participated in negotiating investment and jobs can confirm that confidence in our position in the EU, not just our membership of it, is vital.

The simple fact is that a rejection of this Treaty after receiving comprehensive assurances to our concerns would be seen by many as Ireland moving away from the core of the EU. There is no conceivable economic benefit which could come from this and there is undeniable potential for long-term damage.

But the economic case for a Yes vote goes beyond the important issue of confidence in our standing within the Union. An effective European Union, properly equipped to tackle major economic concerns, can only be to our benefit.

The European Union cannot guarantee us success, but we are guaranteed that success is not possible without the European Union. A stronger, more effective EU is in our vital national economic interests and the Lisbon Treaty is essential to achieving this.

Ireland's Experience of Europe

Over the years, we have played a central role, out of all proportion to our size, in the development and shaping of the Union. In a world which is increasingly shaped by forces beyond the control of nation States, the Union amplifies our voice and it promotes our interests. The European Union is the natural home for the protection of Ireland's interests and the pursuit of our aspirations.

Our exports to other EU countries have multiplied by an incredible one hundred-fold since we joined. Membership has opened up new economic horizons and allowed us to escape from the dependencies of the past.

The Single Market, approved by the Irish people in 1987, is the centrepiece of European integration. As an influential EU member, we have been able to help shape the rules governing the single market. It has provided our firms with huge opportunities from which we have benefited immensely.

And as part of the largest trans-national market in the world, we have attracted substantial quantities of inward direct investment from companies seeking a base within the European Union. The Single Market has directly benefited hundreds of thousands of Irish workers, their families and communities.

The current economic crisis reminds us of the advantages of belonging to the EU and of possessing a strong international currency - the Euro - which is not prey to manipulation from outside. The liquidity provided by the European Central Bank to Irish banks has been a real asset to Ireland, as it has supported the stability of our financial system.

This is not ‘Politics as Usual'

Over recent months a lot has been done to keep people informed about developments and there has been ongoing campaigning. From today the campaign will move to another level. In addition to posters and leaflets, the Party will campaign throughout the country and will be talking to people about why Ireland needs Europe and needs the Lisbon Treaty.

During this campaign we intend to focus on the real issues which matter and which will be decided by the people, not the agenda of others. We will strongly rebut false attacks on the Treaty and the EU, but the people are entitled to hear the positive case for a Yes vote and we are determined to make this case. An atmosphere of charge and counter-charge can confuse people, so to those who say that they "don't know", we will respond "here's where you find out".

This referendum is not about ‘politics as usual'. It goes beyond any issues of party, organisation or locality. It is about our country's future. It deserves a debate which is serious and based on facts.

Everyone who cares about Ireland's future and our place in Europe should make the time to participate in the campaign and to bring a positive message into every community in the country.

Now that the other 26 members of the Union have provided comprehensive guarantees on the issues of concern to the Irish people, we can focus on the basic choice: Do we believe in standing alone in facing major problems or in working together with others?

I believe that the idea of a European Union where countries work together to overcome shared problems is central to Ireland's future. We need Europe. We need the reforms of the Lisbon Treaty so that the Union can move forward to tackle today's problems.

We need a strong and effective European Union to secure the economic and social wellbeing of our people, today and into future generations.

We need a strong and effective Europe to help us remain competitive, to ensure that we continue to attract investment and, above all, to help us protect, retain and create jobs.

 


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