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By Hilary White

DUBLIN, October 28, 2008 ( – The Republic of Ireland can save its image in the European Union, but only if the country will stop being “difficult” and ratify the Lisbon Treaty, says a prominent EU representative. Secretary General of the European Commission, Catherine Day told a Dail (parliamentary) committee last week that the Irish must ratify the Treaty that would expand the political influence of the European Union, or risk losing its international influence.

In June this year, the Irish republic infuriated EU commissioners and bureaucrats when it rejected the Lisbon Treaty in a referendum. The Lisbon Treaty is the replacement for the European Union’s Constitution that was rejected in 2005 by referenda in France and the Netherlands.

“But,” Day said, “I do not believe that Ireland’s image has been tarnished irrevocably, provided we are able to ratify in a reasonable time period.

“The mood in most of the other member states is that they want to get on with the real agenda and put an end to the institutional debate.”

A paper produced earlier in the autumn this year predicted that Ireland will cave to pressure to ratify the Treaty. The paper offered “guarantees” on what officials believe are the problem issues of the Treaty and promises “protocols” guaranteeing Ireland’s rights to set policy on neutrality, abortion and taxation.

Day told the committee that although the EU has made concessions to the concerns of Ireland, “The goodwill does not go so far as to changing the treaty.”

Although Day denied that the Irish government is under any “undue pressure” to bring about a second vote, EU officials have said that a second vote will be forced on the Irish public in Autumn 2009. EU politicians, including the current president Nicolas Sarkozy, have said that despite the official requirement of unanimous ratification, the Lisbon Treaty would go forward whether the Irish want it or not.

Day said that the vote on the Treaty has caused the representatives of other member states to view Ireland only in terms of the rejection of the Lisbon Treaty. She said it was not “politically conceivable” that the EU would drop the Treaty, under development for eight years, just because of rejection by one member state.

Ireland is the only EU state that retained a statutory requirement to put such matters to a public referendum since the 2005 rejection of the European Constitution. British Prime Minister Gordon Brown refused a vote in the UK despite heavy pressure in Parliament and from opposition parties, as well as extensive public opposition.

All the major British parties, including Labour, had promised that the matter of a European Constitution would be put to a referendum. Brown argued that the Lisbon Treaty is “substantially different” from the rejected Constitution, but experts and EU officials alike admitted openly that any changes from the previous document were minute and mainly cosmetic.

Recent polls have shown that the bullying of the small country by EU officials has had the opposite of the desired effect. The first Lisbon referendum brought a rejection of the treaty by 53.4 per cent to 46.6 per cent. In late July, polls showed that 71 per cent oppose a second referendum; 67 percent agreed with the statement that “politicians in Europe do not respect Ireland’s No vote.”

Anthony Coughlan of the National Platform EU Research and Information Centre, wrote that the Lisbon Treaty ratification would create a new super-state “in the constitutional form of a supranational European federation” making citizens of ratifying countries primarily into citizens of that super-state, “owing obedience to its laws and loyalty to its authority,” in contrast to their current honorary EU ‘citizenship’.

During the campaign, pro-life advocates warned that the eroding of Irish national sovereignty that Lisbon represented would also threaten the Irish constitutional protection for the unborn, given the almost universal acceptance and promotion of abortion at the EU level. Member states that retain legal protections for the unborn are under constant pressure from the EU to legalise or expand the legal provision of abortion.

The most common reasons given after the referendum for the rejection of the Treaty had to do with fears over the increasing political power of the EU over sovereign member states. The most popular reasons cited were  “to keep Ireland’s power and identity” and “to safeguard Ireland’s neutrality.”

See related coverage:

Ireland Rejects EU Treaty by Wide Margin

EU to Solve “Irish Problem” with Second Referendum in Autumn ‘09