27 May 2005


Ireland to go ahead with EU constitution vote

Fri May 27, 2005 11:38 AM BST
By Paul Majendie

DUBLIN (Reuters) - Ireland will go ahead with its referendum on the European constitution even if France rejects it in a crucial poll on Sunday.

After the government published a bill on Thursday to enable a referendum to be held, Foreign Minister Dermot Ahern said: "We will proceed in any event. Renegotiation is not on the agenda."

EU officials say if France votes "No" by a large margin, the treaty is probably doomed. Two new polls put French opposition at 55 percent and a third at 54 percent.

Prime Minister Bertie Ahern, eager to defuse "No" campaigners, on Friday denied the constitution would bring neutral Ireland closer to being involved in a military alliance.

"The existing prohibition in the Irish constitution on Ireland's participation in any EU common defence will remain," Ahern wrote in the Irish Times.

"There is nothing in the European constitution that affects our policy of military neutrality or the triple lock," he added.

The so-called "triple lock" means that a government decision, parliamentary approval and U.N. authorisation would all be needed before Irish troops are committed to any overseas operation.

No date has been set yet for the referendum in Ireland, which has been a major benefactor from EU cash to update its poor infrastructure.

Neutrality is one of the most sensitive political issue in Ireland.

Ahern's government came under heavy domestic criticism last year for allowing U.S. jets to refuel at Shannon airport in western Ireland en route to the Middle East.

Among the leading opponents in Ireland of the EU constitution is Sinn Fein, political ally of the Irish Republican Army campaigning to end British rule in Northern Ireland. Ireland's neutrality is its major concern.

With publication of the referendum bill now giving Ireland the legislative basis for staging a referendum, Europe now looks set again to take a much more central role in Irish politics.

Pitching a "Yes" vote to his compatriots, Ahern said: "The constitution reflects Europe's values, extends new rights to Europe's citizens, strengthens Europe's role in the world and simplifies decision-making in the enlarged EU."

Ah sure , if we get it 'wrong' the first time , they'll give us another go at it .
It's called "democracy" !

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