Libertas back in limelight as Lisbon debate hots up

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Declan Ganley has made a dramatic return to political life just months after insisting he would not run a campaign against the Lisbon Treaty. The Libertas frontman said he was prompted into the U-turn by what he called the “fallacies” pedalled by pro-Lisbon advocates.

Ganley played a pivotal role in defeating the treaty in 2008 when he ran a slick and focused campaign against the “Brussels elites,” who he said were bent on creating a less democratic European Union. 

Critics accused Libertas of misrepresenting the Lisbon Treaty in order to frighten people into voting ‘no’. This time around, Ganley says pro-Lisbon groups are playing on public fears over Ireland’s reeling economy. 

The self-made multimillionaire was also accused of using the last Lisbon Treaty campaign to raise his public profile and boost his own ego. Speaking at the launch of his campaign in Dublin yesterday, Ganley rejected claims that his return to the spotlight is self-serving. 

“This isn’t about me, I’m not important in this. This is about Ireland’s place in the European Union […] it’s about my country, a country that I love, and it’s about standing up for the truth when people are telling huge lies, and the truth does not require a mandate.” 

His re-emergence brings a funding boost for the anti-Treaty campaign, which has struggled to match the spending power of pro-Treaty groups. The four mainstream political parties, business lobbies and Ireland’s largest trade union are pumping significant resources into the ‘yes’ campaign. 

During the first referendum, Libertas kept the Irish government on the defensive through a highly professional and well-funded campaign. However, Ganley’s stock is now considerably lower than when he first thrust himself into the limelight 18 months ago during Ireland’s first referendum on the Lisbon Treaty. 

Then, he cast himself as a pro-Europe maverick seeking to restore the EU’s democratic ethos. However, he has since faced the electorate as a candidate for the European Parliament elections, in which he failed to win a seat. 

Opinion polls show support for the Lisbon Treaty is strong with less than three weeks to go before the October 2 plebiscite. A poll in the Sunday Business Post showed 62% intending to vote in favour of the charter, while a Sunday Independent survey put the ‘yes’ side at 63%. 

Meanwhile, Irish employers’ group IBEC released a new poll this morning (Monday) showing 89% of Irish exporters back the Lisbon Treaty. The survey of 500 Irish employers shows an overwhelming majority believe a ‘yes’ vote is crucial to economic recovery and will support Irish jobs. 

Libertas, the movement founded by Irish multimillionaire Declan Ganley, spearheaded the successful 'no' campaign in the 2008 Irish referendum on the Lisbon Treaty. 

Ganley subsequently established a pan-European party to contest the European Parliament elections, running candidates in many EU member states on an anti-Lisbon platform. 

The Libertas campaign spent tens of millions and garnered massive media attention, particularly in Ireland, where the millionaire-turned-politician Ganley contested the election in the country's north-west constituency. 

The campaign ended in failure, however, with just one Libertas MEP elected. Ganley himself narrowly missed out on a seat in Ireland's North-West constituency. 

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