Sunday, June 15, 2008
DUBLIN: The rainbow coalition of groups which helped secure Ireland’s shock EU “no” vote is savouring a famous victory — and working out how to ensure the Lisbon Treaty really is dead in its current form.
The “no” side brought together an unlikely assortment of campaigners notably including Libertas, a slick lobby group run by businessman Declan Ganley who is now considering taking the anti-Lisbon message to mainland Europe.
Also rallying opposition were Sinn Fein, the political wing of the Irish Republican Army (IRA) and the anti-abortion pressure group Coir, which raised concerns — unfounded according to opponents — that the treaty could threaten Ireland’s ban on abortion.
Together they helped the “no’ vote surge to a 53.4 to 46.6 per cent victory in results announced Friday, a much wider margin than had been expected after opinion polls suggested the race would go to right down to the line.
But with European leaders indicating that the treaty will not be killed off by the “no” vote, commentators are wondering what shape the Irish fight against it will take in the coming months.
This would be particularly crucial if there was a second referendum, which Prime Minister Brian Cowen has not ruled out and French European Affairs Minister Jean-Pierre Jouyet has said is unavoidable.
In an interview hours after the result was announced, Ganley was asked whether he would now move into politics full-time following the success of the campaign which he spearheaded.
“I’m not ducking the question, I genuinely don’t know the answer so I wouldn’t rule it in and I wouldn’t rule it out,” he told national broadcaster RTE on Saturday in a high-spirited appearance.
Whether or not he makes the leap into politics full-time, a Libertas spokesman said that Ganley was set to visit Europe “and see if he can build some sort of pan-European organisation”, without giving further details.
Sinn Fein, led by Gerry Adams, was the only major political party to back the “no” campaign and now says it wants to “support and assist” Cowen in the coming weeks.
“We will be seeking a meeting with the Taoiseach (prime minister) in the coming days to discuss with him the issues, which we believe can be addressed in a renegotiated treaty,” said Mary Lou McDonald, the party’s European lawmaker and face of its campaign.