04 June, 2008

Sneaking Under The Lisbon Treaty Radar

By now everyone on this Island of ours, on the western side of Europe, has heard about the up coming referendum to ratify the Treaty Of Lisbon. From what I've read on different web sites and on foreign news channels, most of the people in the EC are aware of the referendum here too as we are the only county in the EC which is holding a referendum to ratify the treaty. The other countries current governments have the power to ratify the treaty without consulting the voters.

The Treaty is, apparently, a huge document of wishie-washie beaurocratic gobbledy-gook. I haven't read it, nor would I attempt to. Instead I bided my time and got the booklet from the Referendum Commission.

Most of the debate on the referendum has been about how the treaty will be good or bad for Ireland, depending on which side you're listening to. The booklet is fair in it's presentation of the things and just presents the facts in a fairly easy to read manner - not an easy thing to do considering the subject manner.

I read the booklet carefully, getting to grips with each part. Most of the treaty seems to be concerned with making the EU fairer for all the member states and giving new member states an equal say. This involves Ireland having to give up some of it's voting power. This is what most of the "Yes" and "No" campaigners have been going on about.

But then I hit one small line which actually said what the change to our constitution will be. THIS is what we're being asked to vote on. THIS is the change that is being proposed and it's not just about the Treaty Of Lisbon.

To quote the booklet...
This means that any national government may veto
such a proposal. If the European Council does agree a
proposed change, any national parliament may prevent
these changes coming into effect. Under the proposed
amendment to the Constitution of Ireland the approval of
the Dáil and Seanad will be required for Ireland to agree
to such proposed changes. Such changes would not
require a referendum in Ireland.

The piece in bold is what hit me. By voting "Yes" to change the Constitution of Ireland, the government want us to not only ratify the Treaty of Lisbon, but they also want to make sure that they don't have to ask us about any future EU treaties.

This came as a surprise to me as I haven't heard anyone, in any media let people know about this. I presumed I must be misreading it, so I looked up the wording of the change to the constitution. It says
8° The State may exercise the options or discretions provided by or under Articles 1.6, 1.9, 1.11,
1.12, 1.13 and 2.1 of the Treaty referred to in subsection 7° of this section but any such exercise
shall be subject to the prior approval of both Houses of the Oireachtas.

I don't think I've misinterpreted it.

If the change is passed this will be the last referendum we have on anything to do with the EU. The last members of the voting public which can ratify or reject EU treaties will be gone. I guess the government figure something that important can't be left to idiots that voted them in in the first place.