By Hilary White

DUBLIN, May 20, 2009 ( – At an EU foreign ministers meeting on Monday, Czech European affairs minister Stefan Fule said that since the member states had agreed to “robust” legal guarantees for Ireland, it was time for the Irish to set a date for another referendum on the Lisbon Treaty.

The Irish Times reports that Fule wants the Irish to announce the date of a second Lisbon referendum at the June council, provided the necessary “legal guarantees” are in place. The Irish government is reported to be asking EU parliamentarians for guarantees on taxation, neutrality, ethical issues such as abortion and the retention of Ireland’s EU commissioner.

The Irish Independent reports that Minister of State for European Affairs, Dick Roche, ruled out any debate on a possible date for a second referendum until Ireland signs off on its “guarantees.”

Ireland’s foreign minister has responded to Fule’s demand with a pledge to persuade Irish voters to back the treaty. reports that Foreign Minister Michael Martin said that the government will run a more intensive campaign in favor of the Lisbon Treaty than last year, when voters rejected it in a referendum.

“This time round, we will all need to up our game,” Martin said. “We will all need to do more and to do it better, if we are to get the result that we sincerely believe to be in the interests of Ireland.”

“We understand how these guarantees are important for the Irish,” and “should be robust enough to dispel the concerns of Irish citizens,” he said.

Immediately following the July 2008 referendum in which the Irish public rejected the Treaty, the Irish government was placed under immense pressure by the EU to bring forward a second referendum. Threats of loss of influence in EU affairs followed outraged demands by EU officials that the country re-play the referendum to bring about the desired “yes” vote.

European lawmakers and EU diplomats began to speak of changes that could be made the the Treaty to render it more palatable for a second vote. Government and EU analysts cited the perceived threat to Ireland’s tax laws and changes to the system of representation in the European Parliament as the main objection.

Despite the downplaying of the abortion issue in the media, Irish pro-life advocates and No campaigners have told that abortion was a significant part of the reasons for the rejection of the Treaty. Currently abortion is illegal in Ireland, and there are significant concerns that should the country pass the treaty, it will be forced to bring its abortion law into line with anti-life EU norms. 

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