Page last updated at 12:49 GMT, Thursday, 17 September 2009 13:49 UK

Lisbon 'fine by us' says bishop

Irish nuns at a polling station, 24 May 07
It is not clear how far EU "guarantees" will sway Irish Catholics

A senior Irish Catholic bishop has said Roman Catholics can vote "Yes" to the Lisbon Treaty "in good conscience".

The EU treaty does not affect the legal position of abortion in the Republic of Ireland, Bishop Noel Treanor said.

Ireland's rejection of the treaty in a referendum last year was attributed in part to voters' concern that Lisbon might soften Irish anti-abortion laws.

A second Irish referendum will take place on 2 October. Nearly all the 27 EU member states have ratified Lisbon.

Rev Noel Treanor, Bishop of Down and Connor, told an Irish parliamentary committee on Wednesday that "a Catholic can, without reserve and in good conscience, vote Yes for the Lisbon Treaty".

"There are no grounds to justify a No vote in the Lisbon Treaty on the basis of specifically religious or ethical concerns.

"The Lisbon Treaty does not alter the legal position of abortion in Ireland. This is further assured by the legal guarantees (which will become protocols) secured by the Irish government," he said.

Official Church position

Bishop Treanor told the committee he had represented the Irish Bishops' Conference in Brussels for almost 20 years and was speaking with the support of Catholic primate Cardinal Sean Brady.

Since the last referendum the EU has provided legally binding "guarantees" that Lisbon will not affect Irish sovereignty over taxation, "family" issues - such as abortion, euthanasia and gay marriage - and the traditional Irish state neutrality.

Polls suggest most Irish voters will back the treaty second time round.

All EU member states must ratify the treaty for it to come into force.

The treaty is aimed at streamlining EU institutions, to improve decision-making in the enlarged 27-member bloc. Opponents say it undermines national sovereignty and concentrates too much power in Brussels.

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