Ireland Votes NO on Nice

The controversial referendum poster like this one in Cahirciveen, Co. Kerry about which Taoiseach Bertie Ahern has reservations.

By Mairead Carey, Contributor
August / September 2001

European Union foreign ministers, furious at the Irish electorate’s decision to reject the Nice Treaty on EU enlargement, have ruled out any renegotiation of the treaty. While they insist that they respect the decision of the Irish people who voted 54-46 against the treaty, they will not reopen discussions on the deal and are adamant that Ireland will have to hold a second vote on the issue.

Irish Foreign Minister Brian Cowen, who has been busy explaining the Irish electorate’s decision to his EU counterparts, has told a meeting of EU ministers that the government will again seek to ratify the treaty before the end of 2002.

Patricia McKenna, Green MEP (Member of European Parliament) and the country’s leading No campaigner, has called for Cowen’s resignation, saying that his abject failure to represent and uphold the will of the Irish people was a disgrace.

Taoiseach Bertie Ahern has warned that if Ireland stands in the way of EU enlargement it would be seriously damaging for the country, while many No campaigners say that the treaty gave too much power to the larger states at the expense of the smaller countries. Finance Minister Charlie McCreevy caused consternation when he said the plain people of Ireland should be proud of their decision. McCreevy said the Irish No vote represented a healthy anti-establishment gesture of which the Irish people should be proud.

Attorney General Michael McDowell, the government’s legal adviser, rejected claims that the Irish No vote was a selfish one, that Ireland is a society of economic ingrates who have crossed the moat and are attempting to pull up the drawbridge on other applicants.

McDowell claims that the No vote represented Irish people’s opposition to proposals for a direct tax from Europe, increased defense capacity and a two tier parliament. ♦

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