Paschal’s opening address to the Sub-Committee on Ireland’s future role within the EU.

10th October, 2008

I am extremely grateful and honoured to be chair of this important sub committee. I am also extremely conscious of the responsibilities which this job will bring.

As a committee we are faced with a clear choice. We can rerun the debate and the campaign of the referendum or we can analyse carefully where our country stands now in Europe and what the choices and issues are that face our nation.

We can look to the past or to the future.

I will be asking you all to look to the future.

We cannot go through the motions, patronise and bore the people and bring nothing to the table but more of the same.

The referendum is over. That campaign is finished. The role of our sub committee is to understand the consequences of this decision. As legislators we then must understand the options and possibilities ahead of us.

This task must be taken without preconditions and within this committee we must set aside party interest. In the uncertain world, within which the people of Ireland expect us to lead them, the stakes are too high and the issues too important. That is why I will be asking all of you for a huge commitment of time, effort and work across the next 7 weeks.

We must report by the 28th of November. This does not give us much time, but with the resources and dedication of our members I know we will deliver this mandate on time and well. Because while we might not always agree, we are absolutely united to placing our nation’s interest first.

And, our doing this work well is in the nation’s interest.

Our remit during this time is very clear:-

  • analyse the implications of the referendum result and the challenges it now poses Ireland;
  • examine the key issues of concern to the people as regards Ireland’s membership of the Union including economic, social and defence policies as well as Ireland’s influence within the EU Institutions;
  • consider how the role of the Houses of the Oireachtas in EU Affairs could be enhanced and public understanding of the EU improved.
  • and most importantly consider Ireland’s future in the EU.

As we deliver this remit let it be clear that I consider this Committee to be a doorway for all members of the European family.

And so, with the greatest respect to those who have been front and centre of the Lisbon debate up to now, with the consent of the committee we will be looking for other voices to be heard. Be they on Yes side or the No, be they on the Left or Right, be they in Government or not.

This Committee is a first. Let us make sure that the way we approach how we do our business be a first as well.

No talking heads. Just talking.

Not just interest groups, millionaires and Minsters.

There is a lot expected from this subcommittee. Our constituents have every right to expect that we will address these issues openly, honestly and seriously. We have been given a huge responsibility, a responsibility to which we will rise.