Irish Catholic Bishop OK’s Yes Vote for Lisbon

Fri Sep 18, 2009 - 12:15 pm EST

By Hilary White

DUBLIN, September 18, 2009 ( - Despite increasing warnings from European pro-life groups that a Yes vote on the Lisbon Treaty could result in the overturn of Ireland's constitutional protections for the unborn, at least one Irish Catholic bishop is not buying it. Bishop Noel Treanor of the diocese of Down and Connor, dismissed these objections and said this week that "a Catholic can, without reserve and in good conscience, vote Yes for the Lisbon Treaty."

"There are no grounds to justify a No vote in the Lisbon Treaty on the basis of specifically religious or ethical concerns," he told an Irish parliamentary committee on Wednesday.

While the Pro-Life Movement of the Czech Republic earlier this week issued a plea for the Irish (the last country in the EU to allow the public a say on the matter) to reject the Lisbon Treaty to protect the right of nations to retain pro-life laws, Bishop Treanor denied that passing the Treaty would "alter the legal position of abortion in Ireland."

"This is further assured by the legal guarantees (which will become protocols) secured by the Irish government," he said

However, Brian Hickey of the pro-life group Cóir told that "we haven't claimed that" the Treaty would "bring in abortion now or tomorrow."

Instead, the No campaigners, as well as pro-life groups, have warned that should the Lisbon Treaty come into effect, the Irish constitutional protection of human life from conception could be threatened by a future decision of the European Court of Justice.

"Should the EU Court of Justice decide that abortion or euthanasia are fundamental rights, it would overturn our laws, or the laws of any other country, under the Charter of Fundamental rights which Lisbon makes legally binding on all member countries under article 6 of the Treaty."

He added, "This is the reason the Poles opted out of the Charter."

Hickey said that there have been previous decisions made in the EU that lend credence to this threat, including a move by the EU Advocate General who proposed overturning the Irish constitutional ban on abortion. "The Court did not follow that opinion at the time," said Hickey, but this incident indicates the general tenor of opinion at the EU.

Hickey also noted that the opinion of Bishop Treanor is "his own subjective opinion" and not that of the Irish bishops' conference, which has yet to issue a statement. Bishop Treanor, however, told the committee that he had represented the Irish Bishops' Conference in Brussels for almost 20 years and was speaking with the support of Catholic primate Cardinal Sean Brady.

Hickey said, "If an Irish bishop says anything that is deemed to be favourable to the Treaty, it will be widely publicised, but whether that will translate into influence among the voters is yet to be seen."

He added, "We're not just thinking of our own situation, it's the other EU countries. If there's to be a decision, they could also see their situation threatened."

Poland, Czech Republic and Malta, as well as Ireland, are EU member states with legal restrictions on abortion. Hickey told LSN that the threat of the Lisbon treaty is being felt in other countries, with 200 people demonstrating yesterday in Prague outside the Irish embassy against the Treaty, an incident that has yet to be reported in the mainstream press.

"I went to Poland and met a priest there who, when he heard that I was campaigning against Lisbon, shook my hand and thanked me," he said.

Despite accusations from some MEPs and pro-democracy groups that Ireland is being bullied by the EU into overturning its decision, the Irish government agreed to replay the referendum on October 2.

Read related coverage:

Czech Pro-Life Group Urges NO to Irish Lisbon Vote

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