An all-party parliamentary report published in Dublin yesterday cleared the way for a re-run of the failed 12 June Lisbon Treaty referendum in Ireland, which threw the Union into crisis.
“No legal obstacle appears to exist to having a referendum either on precisely the same issue as that dealt with on June 12 or some variation thereof,” said the report, by an Irish parliamentary sub-committee looking at the country’s future in the EU.
The report warned that the position of Ireland has been diminished since 12 June and that the country could suffer serious economic consequences as a result of the negative vote on the Union’s reform treaty.
Significantly, the report warns that other EU countries are likely to develop a mechanism to allow them to move forward – without Ireland – with the reforms envisaged by the treaty.
The current world economic crisis also appeared to be a major argument in favour of the Irish thinking again. As a result of its isolation, the ability of Irish banks to raise money in international markets would be diminished and the country would be less capable of competing for foreign direct investment.
The report also rejected as “undesirable” a suggestion that Ireland could ratify the Lisbon Treaty through its parliament. Scholars had pointed out that this solution was legally possible, but politically difficult to sell to the Irish people.
Moreover, a solution whereby Ireland would leave the Union was rejected as “unthinkable”.
Although stopping short of proposing concrete solutions, the report leans heavily in favour of a second referendum with additional declarations, joint decisions or protocols to reassure Irish voters on various issues.
Little doubt now remains that a second referendum will be held, although its timing and the exact question that the Irish would be asked to answer are remain unclear. Irish Taoiseach Brian Cowen is expected to present his views on “the way forward” at the 11-12 December EU summit in Brussels.
In the meantime, European Parliament President Hans-Gert Pöttering, who was in Dulblin only days ago, warmly welcomed the Irish parliament’s report.
“It is helpful that the sub-committee has identified a clear set of issues which need to be addressed, including control over taxation policy, consolidation of a social market policy, subsidiarity in deciding sensitive ethical issues, protection of traditional Irish neutrality, and maintaining a European commissioner. I am certain that solutions can be found next month to respond to these concerns and give the Irish Government the assurances it needs,” Pöttering stated.