Church v State clash likely as second referendum is floated

The battle lines are being drawn up already inside the Dublin establishment for a second referendum on the Lisbon Treaty. It’s becoming clearer what the results of a shorter than expected “period of reflection” will be when Brian Cowen reports to the EU Council of Ministers in October. “No rush” and “up to a year” may boil down to just four months before making a new commitment. The kite was flown at the Humbert summer school at Killala, when the Irish Europe minister Dick Roche told the bucolic scholars that – in his “personal opinion” at the moment – a second referendum on the Treaty would “ultimately” be required. Ratification by the Oireachtas only was not a viable option.

So the Lisbon Treaty lives – official!
At the same session, Fine Gael Senator Eugene Regan’s support for the legislative option exposed the threadbare nature of his case.

“The Oireachtas could ratify Lisbon, subject to a number of opt-outs if necessary…. for example, the Charter of Fundamental Rights, the solidarity clause, transfer of certain matters to qualified majority voting, and the inclusion of new competences such as energy security, climate change and tourism”

So what would be left to ratify after all these opt-outs, senator? .

Can we detect a slight weakening of the impossiblist Sinn Fein “No” position can be detected from Mary Lou, keen no doubt to be on the winning side before next year’s Euro-elections?

“MEP Mary Lou McDonald has said if the Irish government secures a better deal for Ireland at European level, only then is there an argument for a new referendum. Those of us on the ‘no’ side want specific new additional points in the treaty and we want specific cast iron legal views on taxation,’ she said.”

If opinion hardens for second referendum, Cowen will be choosing the hard place rather than the rock. Quite a gamble, and a lot of persuading to do as a recession bites. It’s hardly an exaggeration to say his premiership will be at stake.

And will the Catholic Church come out with its most explicit statements on a matter of public morals since the legalisation of contraceptives row in the 1970s? As Slugger has already noted, at the same summer school Cardinal Brady warned that “a succession of anti-family, anti-life and other anti-Christian decisions by Brussels has made it more difficult for committed Christians to maintain their instinctive support for Europe in the Lisbon Referendum”. This is code for a supposed assault on the abortion ban implicit in the Treaty according to its critics and identified as a key fear in the minds of “No” voters last June.

Ireland could face a Church v State battle of interpretations over what the Treaty actually means in this area over fears that ratifying the Charter of Fundamental Rights could force the Supreme Court to overturn the abortion ban on new human rights grounds. So far the parties have played down the existence of a link with abortion. Brian Cowen did so in his diagnoses of No, immediately after the referendum. “… concerns were expressed regarding abortion, despite the specific assurances in terms of Ireland’s legal arrangements in this regard.”

In fact, as Slugger has noted, the Irish State faces defeat on abortion already, not because of anything the EU is doing but because of a likely ruling in the quite separate European Court of Human Rights.

  • Garibaldy


    This was basically the PSF position from immediately after the referendum at least, that they wanted renogiation rather than outright rejection.

    Interesting that FF has chosen now to start flying the kites for the inevitable second referendum. I was just thinking how quiet all this has gone. No more panic about being thrown out of the EU

  • Garibaldy

    Oh, and I think the abortion thing has been grossly exaggerated in its importance, and doubt it will be a major issue at all in the next campaign.

  • joeCanuck

    Guess what? Treaty or no Treaty, the EU will muddle along as usual.

  • Katinka

    The Irish people took a brave step in voting ‘no’.They voted this way for many reasons including those outlined above, but there is one reason which is getting no publicity at all and this is probably the most fundamental reason of all – the EU is not democratic, and this treaty does nothing to make it more so. The Irish people are not fools, and they have a long experience of democracy, I am sure the referendum would have been passed if the treaty gave power to the voters, and not the ‘establishment’.

    What is the point of referendums if they give an answer that is deemed by the oligarchs to be ‘wrong’ and therefore the people must vote again. This is a denial of democracy, and it is patronising the Irish people.

    You may be able to lead the Irish people, but you can drive them nowhere.

  • It was Sammy McNally what done it

    It is a fair bet that a referendum would probably be lost in most/all other countries if they were held and yet the one country that has said NO has to have a second go.

    We need another country to state they are having a referndum and then we can delay ours.

    Not sure if PoshBoyDavid is trying full out for a referndum – there must surely be a large majority in favour of a referendum in Britain and presumably a large majority would vote NO.

  • Dave

    Given that the Red C poll put opposition to a second referendum at 71% of the population, I think it’s wonderful that Europhiles will commit political suicide to further an integrationist agenda. Considering the mess that the gombeens in FF have made of the nation’s finances, perhaps perverted the principle of self-government by transferring national sovereign powers to bureaucrats in foreign countries has a growing appeal…

  • Oilifear

    “… there is one reason which is getting no publicity at all and this is probably the most fundamental reason of all – the EU is not democratic, and this treaty does nothing to make it more so.”

    The treaty would have made great strides to benefit the democracy of EU in an institutional sense, but in terms of genuine democracy – something that requires a grip on the public’s imagination – the EU is still truly lacking, and would still be in a post-Lisbon world. The two are chicken-and-egg. A rehashed referendum should focus on that issue and Ireland, and our European “colleagues”, plan to stir a true democratic spirit among the EU elite, bureaucracy and citizens.

    “Not sure if PoshBoyDavid is trying full out for a referndum – there must surely be a large majority in favour of a referendum in Britain and presumably a large majority would vote NO.”

    PosBoyDavid is playing a clever game. If the Irish don’t ratify Lisbon before he is in office he will hold a referendum, which inevitably won’t carry. But so what? There are two outcomes:

    a) the Irish don’t ratify Lisbon, so it’s dead in the water, and the British public get to “reject” something that can’t happen anyway. Result: PostBoyDavid looks like a hero because he asked the people.

    b) the Irish ratify Lisbon, no vote is held in the UK. Result: PoshBoyDavid looks like a hero because he would have asked the people.

    On a plus side, it would be very fortuitous for the Irish is a) came to pass as, in the event of us not being able to pass Lisbon by referendum, at least we would have the UK weigh in behind us saying that they couldn’t pass it either. So, frankly, among many other reasons – and not being a resident of the UK – I have my fingers crossed that PoshBoyDavid get into No.10 in the months to comes.

  • ulsterfan

    The people of Ireland have already spoken.
    A new referendum might get a YES result but can you imagine the damage this will do to the Irish body politic if the whole treaty fails because some other country (GB) votes no.
    All that pain and a residue of mistrust for nothing.

  • I voted “No” the first time I will vote “No” again.
    I asked Pat The Dope Gallagher in Letterkenny during the Lisbon debate roadshow I asked the Baron of Dungloe if we voted “no” when would the second vote be?

    He huffed n puffed and said that there would be no second vote.
    The audience laughed-they didnt believe him

    Neither did I.

  • It was Sammy McNally what done it

    Phil Mac Giolla Bhain

    the one thing those who want a Yes vote next time round have in their favour is the threat of recession.

    As pointed out above, about 71% may not want a 2nd vote, but if the Warriors of Corruptions (FF) and the Fine Girls (FG) use the R word they might swing it.

  • City Troll

    LOL, the EU is a western USSR, so it should suit the Irish well. I mean your a pathetic pipsqueak nation that hasn’t produced anything useful in centuries and elected terrorists into you’re gonvernment. You people live on social welfare handouts via the Euroweenie taxpayers, so your getting what you desurve,,

  • Dave

    Sammy, we are already in a recession thanks to membership of the Eurozone (and, of course, BIFFO’s incompetence as Minister of Finance). Irish monetary policy is no longer determined by the Irish Central Bank as sovereignty has been transferred to the European Central Bank, with Frankfurt setting its one-size-fits-all interest rate in accordance with the needs of the German economy rather than the needs of the Irish economy. This is why you had the credit splurge that was created by low interest rates, and it is why you now have the credit crunch and ever-increasing interest rates. These artificially low interest rates created Ireland’s house price inflation and this boom and bust is now well and truly in the bust phase, leaving Joe Public with whopping great 40-year mortgages and ever-increasing monthly mortgage payment increases. Writing in 2005, Davy Stockbrokers (part of Bank of Ireland Group) pointed out “that an appropriate policy rate for Ireland is around 6%, fully four percentage points above its actual level.” They went on to say:

    “There is no doubt that an inappropriate policy rate for Ireland is fuelling the booming residential construction sector. One way to think about it is to imagine the mayhem that would ensue were interest rates to rise to 6%. Our worry is that an elongated boom could lead to a more severe correction in the housing market when rates finally begin their ascent (to 3% rather than 6%) or when sentiment changes. A return to higher inflation rates may also occur. Private-sector credit is growing at 26% year on year while services and construction wage inflation is back up to 7%. We may well have to rely on another tool beyond our control to keep inflation in check—further appreciation of the currency.”

    As MEP, Dr John Whittaker, wrote a few weeks ago:

    “The Euro was supposed to be the centrepiece of the single market and it has been hailed as one of the EU’s most successful projects.

    But even before it started, sane people were warning that a shared currency was not a good idea for countries with independent government finances and widely differing standards of living, economic cycles and productivity. More bluntly, it would be madness to marry Germany with its reputation for monetary prudence with Italy and other Mediterranean countries that had quite the opposite reputation.

    So the plan was to help countries to “converge” by means of cash transfers (“structural funds”) and rules restricting government budgets (the “stability pact”).

    Nine years since the euro was launched, it is now clear that these measures have not worked. While the German economy has been doing relatively well following labour market reforms, the usual delinquents of the Mediterranean fringe are in very poor shape. To cite a couple of figures, the debt of the Italian government remains stubbornly high at 106% of GDP, despite the stability pact rule that this should be less than 60%. Greece has a trade deficit of 13% of GDP and Spain has a trade deficit of 10% of GDP.

    These figures are symptoms of borrowing that has been cheap and easy. The Spaniards and Greeks have been using borrowed money to import goods. The Italian government has been able to keep borrowing cheaply because its debt is in euros. Not any more.

    All over the world, lenders have become more wary – we are in a credit crunch. The Chinese are cutting back on lending to the Americans – hence the weakness of the dollar. The Germans are reluctant to lend any more to the Spanish. The Italian government is having to pay 0.5% higher rate for its debt than the German government. And within countries, banks are afraid of lending to other banks in case their mortgage-backed assets turn sour.

    In attempt to shore up the financial system, the major central banks – the US Fed, the Bank of England and the European Central Bank – are all continuing to take on private debts on an unprecedented scale. All commercial banks have been suffering to varying degrees from the epidemic of lending too cheaply. Northern Rock in the UK and Bear Sterns in the US are just two examples where state support has been explicit. The state – i.e. the taxpayer – is effectively bearing the risks of private loans quite generally.

    This is not a position that central banks and governments like – hence the complaints from Mervyn King, the Bank of England governor, about “moral hazard” – the notion that bailing out banks leads them to take on more risk, thus raising the likelihood that further bailouts will be needed in the future.

    This is bad enough when taxpayers are bailing out banks in their own country. But in the eurozone, the common currency has the effect of spreading the burden. Thus the ECB has been taking on Spanish mortgage-backed debt just as the Spanish construction industry is grinding to a halt and making this debt more risky.

  • Dave


    However, the Club Med countries are looking for more help than this. They want the ECB to reduce interest rates to prop up their flagging economies and to allow higher euro inflation which would write down their debts. This is quite the opposite of the German position, where the concern is that current euro inflation of over 3% is already well above its target level of 2%.

    If Germany wins this fight and the ECB refuses to go soft on inflation, a bad situation in Club Med may become desperate, raising the scenario that some countries could leave the euro altogether and re-establish their own currencies. This would allow them to devalue and inflate away their debts without the help of the ECB, just as they used to do before the euro started.

    The one-size-fits-all euro interest rate does not fit all, and it is beginning to show.”

    He is absolutely correct. Biffo, of course, is the moron who admitted that he hadn’t even read the Lisbon Treaty that he insisted was the best thing ever. If the Irish government had any sense of honour, they would have resigned after the Lisbon Treaty was rejected since they clearly do not agree with the people whom they represent. Apart from it being a matter of honour, there is another reason why they should resign: the people simply cannot trust to respect the will of the people on this issue – and, as they are revealing, they cannot not be trusted.

  • David Gerard

    Sarkozy wants Ireland to understand that Europe is like a *family*.

  • Jimmy

    When is a referendum not a referendum? When the corrupt political elite say it is. Selective democracy again by the EU junta.Everyone knew this would be forced upon the Irish again.
    If the EU wants rule simply by the political elite without Democratic consensus,then why dont they just come out and say it without all the charade? I think I would respect them more for it.

  • Henry94

    The Catholic right are part of the “usual suspects” along with Sinn Fein, Trots and various others who always vote No.

    The question is why so many others did this time. Until the government answer that there is no point in having another go.

    What changed? If you left Ireland when Nice was passed and came back now the biggest difference you would notice is immigration. I believe that is the key to the No vote and the reason there would be another No vote.

    I think people feel overwhelmed by the scale of immigration and in the economic downturn that is getting worse. It’s all very well to say that they are wrong (and I do) but in the context of the referendum it is an emotional reality.

    A referendum won’t be passed. Not a chance. But Lisbon must proceed and it must have a democratic validity in Ireland.

    What I suggest is a General Election where Fianna Fail and Fine Gael both seek a mandate to pass Lisbon via the Dail. There is a good argument that a referendum is not required but the Supreme Court would rule on that.

    The two parties with their madate established should form a short-term national government and pass the necessary legislation. If the courts rule it legitimate they can ratify the treaty. If they do not then Lisbon is dead and it’s back to the drawing board.

  • Henry94

    But Lisbon must proceed and it must have a democratic validity in Ireland.

    That should read But if Lisbon must proceed. I hope it does not.