Paschal Launches Report on Ireland’s Future in Europe

27th November, 2008

Oireachtas Sub-Committee on Ireland’s Future in EU Publishes its Report

The Joint Oireachtas Sub-Committee on Ireland’s Future in the EU, today, 27th November, 2008 published its final report. The Sub Committee was especially convened to produce this report following Ireland’s rejection of the Lisbon Treaty. The report outlines the options available to Ireland and makes conclusions regarding Ireland’s future engagement with the EU following the result of the Lisbon referendum.

The report covers four distinct modules, issues and implications for Ireland following Lisbon’s rejection, specific options available, lack of public understanding of the EU and enhancing the role of the Oireachtas in EU affairs.

Over the course of its six weeks of deliberations the committee heard from one hundred and ten individuals representing more than forty organisations. Ninety-four submissions from the public were also received meaning that the full spectrum of views regarding Ireland’s role in the EU were considered before the committee made its conclusions.

Speaking on completion of the report; Chairman of the Committee, Senator Paschal Donohoe said;
“Ireland’s policy of being a constructive member at the heart of the EU to advance the interests of the country has been placed under the spotlight by the referendum result. A vital objective of this report is to analyse the effect on the national interest due to the Irish vote. ”

“It is not within the Sub-Committee’s Orders of Reference to recommend a solution to the current situation which has developed since the Lisbon Treaty referendum result. The different roles of the Oireachtas and the Government are clear with regard to this. But I am certain that Ireland’s best interest is served by being at the heart of Europe. The challenge is to recognise, respect and act upon the wishes of the Irish people while keeping Ireland at the heart of Europe. Rising to the challenges will be a demanding test for Irish political leaders. However we must do so, as the long term consequences of Ireland leaving the heart of Europe are simply disastrous.”


Implications and issues for Ireland resulting from referendum:

  • Ireland’s standing within the EU has diminished;
  • Ireland has a finite amount of negotiating power within the union. The decision not to ratify means that much of our capacity to build alliances will have to be expended in seeking agreement on alternative ways forward. It will not be available to promote our national interests in important upcoming policy areas such as climate change, the global financial crisis and the Common Agriculture Policy (CAP);
  • It is likely that a mechanism will be found by other states which allows them to proceed with reform as envisaged in the Lisbon treaty without Ireland. This would have a devastating effect on Ireland’s economic prospects;
  • This loss of influence is likely to be subtle in its effect and become more significant over time;
  • Exclusion of Ireland from the European mainstream could effect the ability of Irish banks to raise funds on the international money market
  • There is an assumption among the business community that problems surrounding ratification will be overcome, this explains the lack of immediate impact in terms of attracting Foreign Direct Investment (FDI);
  • Uncertainty arising from Ireland’s non ratification may be exploited by other countries competing for FDI;
  • It is clear to the sub-committee that Ireland’s control over direct taxation policy will not be affected by the Lisbon Treaty;

Options available to Ireland following the referendum

  • Re-run the Lisbon referendum. No legal obstacle appears to exist to having a second referendum. If a decision was made to hold another referendum, it would be expected that Government would respond to concerns expressed during the referendum campaign;
  • Supplement the provisions of the Lisbon Treaty with a range of declarations, protocols and decisions. This might involve Ireland deciding to opt out of certain provisions of the treaty. The committee has strong concerns about actions which may involve Ireland opting out of EU policy areas;
  • Ratification of the Lisbon Treaty by the Oireachtas. A parliamentary vote might be held on those aspects of the Treaty which do not appear to require a referendum. The committee does not consider this option as desirable;
  • Referendum on the membership of the EU. This could see Ireland leave the EU and become a member of the European Economic Area (EEA). The committee feels that any solution which would involve Ireland leaving the EU is unthinkable;
  • Renegotiate the Lisbon Treaty. However, there is no indication from any government that they are willing to renegotiate the treaty.
  • Maintain the status quo. This would mean Ireland would continue within the regulations of existing treaties. This would not solve the institutional issues of the union and states are unlikely to be willing to abandon the treaty.

Enhancing Role of Oireachtas in EU Affairs

  • Established a new panel in the Seanad. A minimum of five senators to be nominated from a panel based on their expertise in the area of European Affairs;
  • Allow MEPs to speak in the Dáil chamber The Oireachtas should establish its own EU Information Office;
  • The Oireachtas should be formally consulted about the European commission’s policy and legislative work before they are finalised Government ministers should not be allowed to agree legislation at EU level while it is still being scrutinised by the Oireachtas;
  • The current “triple lock” system for approval of military action by Irish troops should be strengthened. The Dáil should require a two thirds majority for proposals to send Irish troops overseas;

Lack of Public Understanding of the Treaty

  • It is vital that more be done to encourage citizens to engage in the decision making process of the EU. Modern European history should be accorded more prominence on the school curriculum The government should consider establishing an independent body providing public information on the role the EU
  • Teaching of European languages should be introduced to primary schools;
  • The government should consider incentivising journalists to cover EU affairs

Speaking about the report, Senator Donohoe said;

“The decision of the people in the recent referendum, the starting point for the work of the Sub-committee, has created a dilemma for Ireland and the EU. The wish for reform of the Union, the underlying purpose of the Lisbon Treaty remains. Ireland’s decision has cast a shadow over this wish for reform. Our European partners have committed themselves to working with Ireland in finding a common path forward. This report is a contribution to finding that path. “

The report will now be presented to Minister for Foreign Affairs, Michéal Martin to inform him at next month’s meeting of the European Council.

For a copy of the report go to or click on the report:

The full membership of the Sub-Committee is:

  • Senator Paschal Donohoe, Fine Gael (Chairman)
  • Thomas Byrne, TD (Fianna Fáil)
  • Joe Costello, TD, (Labour)
  • Lucinda Creighton, TD (Fine Gael)
  • Timmy Dooley, TD (Fianna Fáil)
  • Beverley Flynn, TD (Fianna Fáil)
  • Michael McGrath, TD (Fianna Fáil)
  • Billy Timmins, TD (Fine Gael)
  • Senator Deirdre deBurca (Green Party)
  • Senator Pearse Doherty (Sinn Féin)
  • Senator Rónán Mullen, (Independent)
  • Senator Phil Prendergast, (Labour)

Witness heard by the committee
A diverse selection of representatives from academia, politics, broadcasting, civil society, special interest groups, business and representative bodies were received by the committee. Some of the organisations and individuals who spoke at the committee included; John Bruton, Paul Rellis (Head of Microsoft Ireland), David Begg (General
Secretary, ICTU), Tom Arnold (Concern), European Youth Alliance, Institute of International and European Affairs, RTE, House of Commons EU Scrutiny Committee, ESRI, Eamon Dunphy, George Hook, Declan Ganley and Joe Higgins.