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Tuesday, 8 October, 2002, 19:46 GMT 20:46 UK
Irish bishops back Nice treaty
Progressive Democrat campaign poster
There is a "stronger case for the Nice Treaty"
The Irish Republic's influential Roman Catholic bishops have given qualified support to an important European Union treaty, just 10 days before a crucial referendum.

The bishops said in a statement that on balance there was a stronger case for the controversial Treaty of Nice than against it - although they criticised what they called the document's excessively technical language.


European integration is more than an economic and political option, it is a significant contributor to world peace

Bishops' statement
Irish voters rejected the treaty in a referendum last year, but have a second chance to vote on it next week.

The treaty sets out institutional reforms needed before the EU can take in new members, and has already been ratified by the 14 other EU states.

The Irish Government and EU leaders have been pressing for a "yes" vote, but opinion polls suggest many Irish voters are still undecided.

Ireland has obtained assurances that its neutrality - which is a highly sensitive issue - will not be compromised by the treaty.

Catholic bishops still carry considerable clout in the overwhelmingly Catholic Republic of Ireland - despite a series of scandals that have eroded the Church's standing in recent years, says the BBC's Mark Duff.

Pope John Paul too has supported the eastwards expansion of the European Union - which could admit his native Poland and nine other countries in 2004.

For him, closer integration is a means of uniting the European - and Christian - family of nations.

Embracing the union

The bishops are less ambiguous in their view of the European Union and say the union has played a positive part in promoting peace and prosperity.

It is, they say, in the best interests of the Irish people.

The bishop of Clogher, Joseph Duffy, said a big problem for Irish voters was that the treaty uses technically complex language and is a "package with many loose strings".

"It was not negotiated with an Irish referendum in mind, with the purpose of giving people a simple straightforward choice," he said.

See also:

04 Oct 02 | Europe
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30 Sep 02 | Europe
18 Sep 02 | Europe
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