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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







THE LISBON REFORM TREATY IS GOOD FOR IRELAND



AND GOOD FOR EUROPE



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



impact.







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.











ENDS







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