2nd December, 2008

The Irish Times have described the report prepared by the Oireachtas Committee on Ireland’s Future in Europe (chaired by Paschal) as tackling matters ‘comprehensively and squarely’. In their editorial they summarise much of the work done by the report and endorses some of it’s conclusions. The full editorial is published below.

Oireachtas Report – Irish Times Editorial 30th November

The Oireachtas Sub-committee on Ireland’s Future in the European Union, whose report was published this week, has had a demanding task following rejection of the Lisbon Treaty in last June’s referendum. It was asked to analyse the challenges facing this State in the EU after the result, to consider Ireland’s future within that context in four designated areas, to make recommendations on how the Oireachtas role in EU affairs can be enhanced and to consider how understanding of these issues can be improved. Its report tackles these matters comprehensively and squarely, based on eight weeks’ work in which it heard evidence from 114 individuals and organisations, and commissioned a report on available options from academics in the Dublin European Institute at UCD. The sub-committee’s report does not make recommendations to the Government on what should be done about the Lisbon issue – that is now nearing decision – but cogently explores its potential impact on Ireland’s position and influence in the system.

Based on this extensive evidence it concludes that Ireland has definitely lost influence and goodwill as a result of blocking the treaty’s ratification, that being in the heart of the EU is very much to our advantage and that the current impasse inhibits Ireland’s ability to promote and defend its national interests at EU level. If these questions are not addressed there will be definite economic and political setbacks.

Business investment depends on legal certainty about EU membership, while political influence on such issues as climate change legislation, Common Agriculture Policy reform, political representation and foreign policy will diminish. Should Ireland fail to ratify the treaty and the other 26 members go ahead without us, we would be relegated to a second tier or even into leaving the EU and negotiating a new relationship with it. It concludes starkly and convincingly: “These scenarios would be catastrophic for Ireland’s national interests, both economically and politically.”

The report suggests a number of valuable reforms in how the Dail and Seanad can handle EU business more effectively, involving greater scrutiny and debate. And it proposes ways to improve public understanding of and engagement with EU affairs. Sinn Fein was the only party not to sign the report, saying it is too tilted towards the Yes side of the Lisbon debate. That reflects the strong Oireachtas majority. Any new campaign on Lisbon would be better informed by this report.