Government faces tough fight, say anti-Lisbon campaigners

The anti-Lisbon Treaty camp today warned the Government to expect a vigorous debate in a second referendum branding EU talks securing Irish guarantees an elaborate charade.

Newly-elected Socialist MEP Joe Higgins claimed the assurances being thrashed out between Europe’s leaders in Brussels had not addressed voters’ concerns.

Flanked by ex-Dublin MEP Patricia McKenna and representatives of the Peace and Neutrality Alliance, Mr Higgins said EU chiefs wanted to create a superpower rivalling the US.

“The overall agenda here is quite simply the ruling classes, or the classes of Europe intend to stride on to the world stage as a powerful economic entity,” Mr Higgins said.

“And they want to be as powerful as the US, meaning they want a stronger foreign policy and a military wing to back them up.

“But I can assure the Government that the debate will be a very intensive debate, a very vigorous debate and I think the benefit perhaps this time is that certain distractions that were raised the last time would be set aside, and therefore we can concentrate on the more fundamental issues.”

Mr Higgins said the Government concocted concerns from No campaigners during the last referendum that they could easily claim were bogus during debates.

“Take for example this notion that Irish youth would be conscripted into an army,” Mr Higgins said.

“The only people I heard that from was Government ministers in the course of the campaign who said this is being said. Nobody here raised any such red herring.

“These were the so-called concerns that were being addressed. But the major concerns as to what the Treaty was really about has not been changed one iota.”

Talks between senior government officials across Europe have intensified in recent days ahead of an agreement on new assurances for Irish voters by the weekend.

Mr Higgins said issues such as militarisation, workers’ rights and the opening up of health and education services to privatisation have not been addressed.

He also claimed the Government would try to “terrify” people over the economic crisis in a second referendum.

Ms McKenna said the legally binding guarantees on taxation, neutrality and ethical issues held little sway as the ultimate interpretation of the Treaty lay with the European Court of Justice in Luxembourg.

Asked if the no camp could win a second referendum, Mr Higgins claimed they were in with a fighting chance.

“I in no way concede the Government is going to win, the debate is yet to be held,” he said.

“It’s true they’ve had a lot of press over the last few days over these guarantees, all this distraction, but we will clarify all those issues in the course of the debate.”

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