Page last updated at 11:22 GMT, Monday, 12 May 2008 12:22 UK

Irish referendum voices

Campaigning has moved up a gear a month before Irish voters have their say on the EU's Lisbon Treaty on 12 June.

The treaty is aimed at streamlining the institutions of the enlarged EU and replaces the ill-fated EU Constitution. Critics say it is just the constitution repackaged and paves the way for a federal Europe.

The Irish Republic is the only European Union member state to have a public vote and opinion polls suggest one-third of the electorate is undecided. Four high-profile voices in the debate put their pitch to the voters.

Click on the links below to read what they have to say.

Mary Lou McDonald, Sinn Fein MEP

Padraig Walshe, Irish Farmers' Association President

Margaret Conlon, Fianna Fail MP

Patricia Callan, Small Firms Association Director


European co-operation is essential to meet the economic and social challenges of modern Ireland.

Mary Lou McDonald, Sinn Fein MEP
Sinn Fein believes political power is being surrendered to EU institutions

We have a huge task in building a democratic Europe capable of meeting those challenges.

The debate over the coming weeks is not about whether Ireland should play its role in the EU.

That is a given. Our place in the EU is secure irrespective of the democratic outcome of the referendum.

We in Sinn Fein believe that this Treaty does not meet the needs of Ireland, of Europe and of the wider world and are calling on people to vote No.

The Treaty further centralises political power at the expense of member states. One hundred additional powers are gained by the EU institutions and in over 60 areas vetoes are surrendered.

Ireland's voting strength at the Council of Ministers is halved. The loss of a commissioner for five out of every 15 years comes at a time when big political issues such as tax harmonisation are on the agenda of the EU.

An Irish referendum must be held if an international treaty requires a change to the 1937 Irish constitution
Yes votes on Single European Act 1987, Maastricht Treaty 1992, Treaty of Amsterdam 1998
In June 2001, Irish voters rejected the Nice Treaty on EU expansion
In October 2002, that vote was overturned
All EU member states have to ratify the Lisbon Treaty for it to come into force
EU Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso say there is 'no plan B'

Disgracefully, this treaty does nothing to protect workers' rights and fails to protect essential public services.

It promotes nuclear power, is bad for the developing world and offers token gestures of increased democracy to member state parliaments and citizens.

The future belongs to those who prepare for it today. A public debate is needed on what future we wish to shape.

By rejecting this treaty Ireland can re-open the debate on Europe and ensure that a better deal is secured. Europe deserves better.


Each referendum, going back to the accession referendum in 1972, has seen the same core arguments used for a No vote - and equally each Yes vote has led to significant improvements in the working of the Union and the benefits felt by Ireland.

Patricia Conlon, Fianna Fail
Ms Conlon believes the EU has helped Ireland achieve 'real sovereignty'

Today, after we have said Yes five times to European treaties, there is no European super-state, we are not conscripting our young people to fight in Nato wars, our democracy is intact, our economy has not been destroyed, we have not been forced to accept European laws on moral issues and workers have not lost their rights.

All of the predictions of doom have not only been shown to be bogus. Every time we have voted Yes, Europe has been able to be more effective and efficient. It's been good for Ireland and good for Europe.

Those who like to attack the European Union claim that the EU is the enemy of national sovereignty and that it is trying to subsume us all into a super-state.

The fact is that, for Ireland, the EU has helped us to achieve real sovereignty in an ever more globalised world.

No vote: Sinn Fein, Socialist Party, Unite union, Technical, Engineering and Electrical Union, Libertas, We Are Change Ireland, Irish Farmers' Association (threatening a No vote)
Yes vote: Political mainstream, including Fianna Fail, Fine Gael, Irish Labour Party; Ibec employers' organisation, Small Firms Association

Instead of having to simply follow the course of what is decided by others, we have been able to participate in and shape these decisions.

Where would we be if the EU did not exist or if it was an empty talking shop with no real power?

What possible influence would Ireland have on the world stage? How would we guarantee the right of our companies to have unhindered access to the world's largest market of nearly 500 million people?

How would we be able to have substantial protection for workers and consumers which others also have to follow? We must remember that sovereignty does not equate to getting your way 100% of the time.

The Lisbon Reform Treaty:

  • Reforms the EU's structures, reflecting the fact that we now have 27 member states
  • Gives national parliaments a direct input into European legislation
  • Allows for more qualified majority voting (QMV), where 55% of the states representing 65% of the population must vote for something, thereby blocking big states ganging up on the smaller ones, like Ireland
  • Delivers a more democratic Council voting system.

That is why I will be asking the people to vote Yes to the Lisbon Reform Treaty.


Irish farmers and their families have a strong association in their minds between "Europe" and the EU Commission.

They see the Commission as the independent body that defends their particular interests and also the interests of Ireland as a small country.

Padraig Walshe, President of the Irish Farmers' Association
Mr Walshe warns that farmers could vote against the Lisbon Treaty

In the trade talks, Commissioner Mandelson has single-handedly undermined that belief and Irish farmers have zero confidence in him to represent their interests.

IFA, and the family farmers we represent, have a clear interest in ensuring a Union of member states which is both efficient in its functioning, and influential on the world stage in relation to the US and the emerging powers in Asia.

However, what is the point of institutional reform if Peter Mandelson abandons the interests of the people he is supposed to represent?

The present situation is that he has blatantly reneged on the commitment of his predecessors and of the Council of Ministers.

I cannot understand why the EU is actively engaged in destroying existing jobs in Ireland and Europe. The EU's position in the WTO negotiations is a huge threat to European farming, the food industry and employment in rural regions. That threat is greatest of all in Ireland.

We would face the destruction of the Irish beef industry and of jobs and wealth generation in towns on an unprecedented scale, with 50,000 jobs lost in the food industry and services, and a further 50,000 farmers losing their livelihoods. Farm output would be halved and the total cost to the Irish economy would be 4bn euros (3.1bn) per year.

My organisation has always adopted a positive position on EU integration. I still want to do that, but if there is a negative outcome from Geneva, farmers are unlikely to vote against their interests.


In an increasingly globalised world, no small business and no small country can stand alone and prosper.

Ireland is part of the largest trading bloc in the world. It is only sensible to ensure that this strong, economic Europe runs its own affairs in a competent and effective manner.

The Lisbon Reform Treaty will improve how the EU operates and it will help small business. This is why the Small Firms Association is strongly advocating a Yes vote on 12 June.

Patricia Callan, Director of Irish Small Firms Association
Ms Callan says the EU's services market is vital for Irish growth

There are many reasons for the business community to support this Treaty.

Of primary importance are the increased business opportunities that will arise from the completion of the market for services within the Union, which will be delivered as a result of a Yes vote to the Treaty.

Ireland is a small, open economy which must export over 80% of every product and service it produces.

Through our membership of the EU and the creation of the single market, Irish business can now sell many of its products and services to 486 million customers throughout the EU.

In the past 10 years, Irish companies have doubled their exports into EU member states from 44bn euros (37bn) to 87bn euros (69bn).

Given that two out of every three people now employed in Ireland work in the services area, securing new business opportunities within the EU services market will be of vital importance to our sustained economic growth.

The Lisbon Treaty will safeguard our low corporate tax regime, our attractiveness as a destination for foreign direct investment and our flexible labour market.

Ireland maintains a veto on EU tax policy and on decisions related to foreign direct investment, along with other sensitive social policy areas.

The success of the Lisbon Treaty referendum will secure Ireland's place at the heart of Europe and will provide many more opportunities for the business community here.

The BBC is not responsible for the content of external internet sites

Has China's housing bubble burst?
How the world's oldest clove tree defied an empire
Why Royal Ballet principal Sergei Polunin quit


Americas Africa Europe Middle East South Asia Asia Pacific