The Irish government’s broadcasting regulator has told "No" campaigners on the upcoming Lisbon Treaty referendum that there will be no equal time for both sides of the debate. Broadcasting Commission of Ireland (BCI) chief executive Michael O’Keeffe said in a statement that the agency is under no obligation to "allocate an absolute equality of airtime to opposing sides of the referendum debate during editorial coverage." Guidelines require only that the allocation of airtime to opposing sides be "fair."
While the move was welcomed by Yes campaigners, one leading pro-life No campaign group has said that the decision is plainly government interference in the democratic process. Cóir Campaign called it a "politically motivated attack on democracy" and described the new rule as a "much weaker provision of fairness which is wide open to abuse."
Government Yes material on the internet and in print posted to people’s homes threaten financial disaster for Ireland if the Treaty is rejected again. The solution to Ireland’s financial woes in the face of the global downturn in the economy is assumed by some Irish leaders to be bailouts from the EU. However, a recent well-publicised poll in Germany, the country that holds much of the EU’s purse-strings, showed that 70 percent of German taxpayers would not approve of future financial bailouts for Ireland in the global economic crisis.
Cóir has accused the Labour Party of "gross hypocrisy" on the re-running of the Lisbon referendum, pointing out that last year Labour Party leader Eamon Gilmore "rushed forward to say the Lisbon Treaty was dead" following the 2008 referendum. "Yet now he is boasting that Labour’s campaign to push the same treaty through will be run like a ‘ground war’ and is determined to make the Irish people vote again," said Greene
Despite a clear No vote last year, Ireland’s second referendum is scheduled to be held on October 2 after heavy pressure from the EU on the Irish government.
The government’s promise to EU officials to go all-out to promote Lisbon has some campaigners questioning how far they will go. The blog of the group Open Europe (OE), a democracy campaign group and clearinghouse of EU skeptic news, asks where the funding is coming from for the dozens of "suspiciously similar" Yes campaign websites that have recently cropped up on the net, such as Women for Europe , Generation Yes and Ireland for Europe .
"In its fevered desperation to pass the Lisbon Treaty, the Irish government has now gone into total overkill," the group said.
"It’s the latest shot in the European Commission-backed onslaught to make sure Irish people don’t cock up its carefully-laid plans to grab control over dozens of new policy areas. No doubt many will fall for it," the authors write.
The Irish government, OE said, is making "absolutely no" attempt to appear neutral or objective on the question, launching websites at taxpayer expense to push the Yes campaign, including "eumatters.ie" describing "what the EU has done for Ireland," including EU regulations on every aspect of life from children’s toy manufacturing to water and food.
Democracy advocates are warning that Lisbon hands most of a country’s legal rights over to a largely unelected and unaccountable body of bureaucrats. Ireland is one of the last member states to retain the requirement of a public referendum to make decisions regarding the nation’s sovereignty under EU dominance. After the defeat in 2005 of the European Constitution by referenda in France and the Netherlands, most EU states abolished public plebiscites under pressure from the EU.
Ireland’s EU commissioner, Charlie McCreevy, said the Treaty would have been rejected in most EU countries had their populations retained the right to vote on it.
"I think all of the politicians of Europe would have known quite well that if a similar question had been put to their electorate in a referendum the answer in 95 percent of countries would have been ‘No’ as well," he said in June. He said EU heads of state were "glad they didn’t have to put the question themselves to their people."
Despite efforts to remove power from individual states, as many EU officials feared, the legal guarantees granted to the Irish to help make the Treaty more palatable to Irish voters have emboldened other states to ask for similar concessions, slowing down the process of ratification and implementation.
Germany may be the next country to hold up Lisbon’s progress, with strongly pro-Europe and pro-Lisbon Chancellor Angela Merkel facing an election in September. . In 2007 an independent poll of 27 EU countries found that an average of 75 percent of all Europeans want a referendum on any new Treaty which transfers more power to Brussels. At the end of June, a poll of German voters showed that 77 percent want a referendum on the Lisbon Treaty.
Shortly after the announcement of the Irish guarantees, the German Constitutional Court ruled, in a case brought by a number of German MPs, that the Lisbon Treaty cannot be ratified until laws were passed guaranteeing parliamentary input in the adoption of EU laws. The court statement said that parliament’s Lisbon ratification document "may not be adopted until the sufficient legal groundwork for parliamentary participation as foreseen in the constitution has been laid."
The German parliament has already ratified the treaty, but President Horst Koehler has not yet signed.
In June, Czech President Vaclav Klaus, who has refused to sign the Treaty, said he plans to refer it to the Czech Constitutional Court in August.
Pro-life and democracy campaigners in Ireland continue to warn that acceptance of Lisbon would put an end to the ability of member states to defend their sovereignty, including their laws protecting human life and the natural family.
This week, EU abortion campaigner Birgitta Ohlsson, the head of the group "Make Noise for Free Choice" that is pushing to have abortion recognized as a "human right" among all member states, told the Times of Malta that even if the campaign is successful, abortion "cannot be imposed on Malta."
Malta, with the tiny principality of Monaco and Ireland, remains one of the few remaining EU countries that retain their traditional laws protecting human life from conception. But Patrick Buckley, EU spokesman for the Society for the Protection of Unborn Children, told LifeSiteNews.com that such assurances, including those that have come from the Irish government, are meaningless.
Buckley explained that promises to individual states that they can retain their own laws are moot since it is up to the European Court of Justice to interpret all such laws, which court has the ability to overturn the laws of member states. In addition, he said, there will be little protection from the EU Parliament. "There is a very strong support in the Parliament for the concept of abortion as a human right," he said.
Cóir spokesman Richard Greene backed this statement, saying that assurances or declarations from the European Union on concerns such as abortion or taxation cannot improve the Lisbon Treaty. Greene called "mistaken" the assumption that the guarantees would protect Ireland, saying they "would have no legal standing and would be as much use as a politician’s promise." He pointed out that the Irish public had not asked for modifications to the Treaty, "they had simply voted No."
"It is an abiding disgrace – and an expression of the contempt in which this government holds the people – that an Taoiseach has refused to state that the Lisbon Treaty is dead and that ratification must end," said Greene.
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