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Speech by An Taoiseach, Mr. Brian Cowen TD at the launch of the Fianna Fil Referendum campaign
Tuesday, 13th May 2008

Speech by An Taoiseach, Mr. Brian Cowen TD at the launch of the Fianna Fil Referendum campaign

Uachtarn Fhianna Fil at the launch of the Fianna Fil referendum campaign in the Hugh Lane Gallery, Parnell Square, Dublin on Monday 12 May 2008 at 12 noon

Statement by Brian Cowen at 12:00 Yesterday



Fianna Fil will take positive campaign into every community in the country

Ladies and Gentlemen,

Ireland has been transformed in the 35 years since we became members of

what is today the European Union. We have achieved unprecedented social

and economic progress. This was not inevitable. It came about because we

have not been a passive or reluctant member, we have been an active and

positive member. Our influence has never come from our size or voting

rights, but through our constructive approach and commitment to developing

the Union for the benefit of all. Others have been content to sit at the

margins but we have been at the centre, shaping a Union which has helped us

and Europe as a whole to prosper.

One of the great strengths of the Union is that it has been committed to

finding ways of improving its work. Over the years, it has been willing to

undertake a series of reforms. Each of these has involved a lengthy

process of negotiation and the ratification of an amending treaty by all

members. In our case, four treaties have been considered by the people and

ratified by referendum. Every time we have voted Yes, Ireland and Europe

have benefited.

When people ask the question 'why do we need yet another European

referendum?' the answer is quite simple - it is because the challenges

faced by the EU and its members change all the time and we need the Union

to be able to meet these challenges efficiently and effectively. To tackle

modern forces such as globalisation, climate change and cross-border crime,

countries cannot stand alone; and for us this means that we need an EU

which has the structures, policies and procedures capable of having an


This is what lies at the heart of the Lisbon Reform Treaty and this is why

it is important for Ireland and for Europe that it be ratified.

The Treaty is the result of eight years of consultations and negotiations.

This has been accompanied in Ireland by ongoing discussions in the

Oireachtas and the National Forum on Europe. Much of the detail of the

Treaty was directly shaped during our Presidency of the European Council.

It is a very detailed and complex document. This is normal for an

international treaty because this is how you ensure that the Union's powers

are limited only to those areas agreed and also how you protect the

specific interests of individual members. To suggest that you can only

support something which is an easy read is absurd and any such treaty would

contain many potential problems.

What is important is not the complexity of the document but that

independent and accessible information be available on exactly what the

provisions of the Treaty mean. In addition to the recent document

distributed to every household by the Department of Foreign Affairs, the

Referendum Commission is spending 5 million in providing information to

every citizen. Further information is available free from a wide variety

of sources. The fact is that before June 12th, there will be more

information available on this vote than on any previous referendum.

This is a good and balanced treaty which protects what works best in the

Union and reforms it in important ways. The most significant of these

changes are:

It reforms the EU's institutions and decision-making procedures

especially in ensuring that it can cope with the trebling of

membership since we joined;

It introduces a number of changes to increase transparency and

democratic oversight of the Union;

It expands the Union's role in peacekeeping and humanitarian efforts in

accordance with United Nations principles;

It ensures that the Union has a clearer voice on the world stage; and

It strengthens the Union's power to act on major challenges such as

climate change, cross-border crime and energy security;

Bringing the positive message of these important changes to every community

in the country is at the core of the campaign that the Fianna F7

align="justify">organisation will run over the next 4 weeks.

In addition to postering, every unit of the organisation will distribute

leaflets and canvass. Every public representative will participate. By

the end of the campaign, we will have held 50 public meetings throughout

the country. We will also hold a number of special 'action days' in

constituencies. Every member of Government is committed to full

participation in the campaign. I and other members of the Government will

undertake a national tour in the campaign bus which we are also launching

today. Nationally, we will hold a series of press conferences and events.

Taken together, it is my intention that this will be the most extensive

referendum campaign undertaken by Fianna Fil in many years.

For Fianna Fil, being positive towards Europe is not some minor issue It

is an absolutely central part of what our party believes in. From our

earliest day we have combined our republicanism with a belief in

internationalism and in European integration. De Valera, Aiken and

Hillery, Fianna Fil's first three foreign ministers, led this country into

full engagement with international institutions. Now more than ever we

share their belief that accepting international obligations is not a threat

to national sovereignty It is, in fact, the only way of actually

guaranteeing national sovereignty.

Ours is a positive message, but we will not be slow to counter the attacks

of those who want Ireland to change its approach to Europe. During every

European referendum, groups have emerged which have claimed that deep

conspiracies are being hatched against the people of Ireland. The most

common tactic has not been to try to persuade people, but to try to confuse

them. They would like us to spend our time talking about what is not in

the Treaty rather than the positive elements that are actually there.

A classic example of this was the Corporation Tax scare which caused

legitimate concern to many people who do not want Ireland to raise this tax

to European levels. Last Thursday, Gordon Brown said that not only did the

Treaty not affect tax policies, he would have vetoed it if it had. This

followed confirmations from a wide range of other leaders and the

independent Referendum Commission, that there is nothing in the Treaty

which undermines our right to decide our own tax policies.

Tactics like this are likely to continue from the Treaty's opponents. As

the late Daniel Patrick Moynihan said, "you are entitled to your own

opinion, but you are not entitled to your own facts". Ours is a positive

message and we welcome a vigorous debate. Proof of this is to be found in

that we have provided a publicly funded, inclusive forum on Europe at which

marginal groups have presented their anti-EU opinions. But we want it to

be clear that we have no intention of standing back and letting them

distort the Treaty or demonise a Union which is so important to the success

of modern Ireland.

The bottom line is that this Treaty is true to the model of a European

Union which has delivered so much for Ireland. We want the Union to be

efficient and effective, and we want it to focus on meeting ever-changing

modern challenges. If Europe is to remain relevant, if it is to continue

to be a driver of peace and prosperity, it cannot stand still. This is why

we need reform and we need the Lisbon Reform Treaty.

This referendum is not about the government or political parties. It is

about the place of Ireland in Europe. Ireland's success has been based on

being positive Europeans - we have relied on a Union which has evolved to

tackle and overcome different challenges.

It is increasingly clear that the Irish public will have the final say on

whether or not this Treaty will come into effect. In the next 4 weeks, it

is Fianna Fil's intention to do everything possible to persuade the Irish

people that a Yes vote is best for Ireland and best for Europe.


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