French president (photo) remarks that the Republic of Ireland should hold a new referendum on the Lisbon Treaty made Irish ministers react robustly. Michael Martin, Ireland foreign minister said that his country would not be bullied.
“It is far, far too early to be talking about a referendum or about some specific policy to go forward”, said Dick Roche, European Affairs Minister.
On Monday, Nicolas Sarkozy, French president, will visit Dublin, looking for a way ahead, after the EU treaty has been rejected by Irish noters on 12 June.
The EU’s six-month rotating presidency is currently held by France, which is keen to resolve the Lisbon Treaty stumbling block before the end of its presidency.
“The Irish will have to vote again”, Mr Sarkozy was quoted as saying on Tuesday, while speaking to deputies from his conservative UMP party in Paris.
Ireland was the only one of 27 EU member states to hold a referendum on the treaty, aimed at streamlining EU institutions in order to improve decision-making in the enlarged bloc. To take effect, the treaty has to be ratified by all 27 states.
To critics, the Lisbon Treaty is a further evidence of a federalist, pro-integration agenda, at work in the EU.
During his visit to Dublin, president Sarkozy would be “in listening mode”, said Mr Martin.
“We’re not entertaining any prospect or any bullying from anybody”, he said. “We’ll be looking at it from an Irish perspective and what’s in the best interests of Ireland.”
“We don’t want to have a row with Mr Sarkozy”, a senior Irish government source told the BBC, adding that the government “does not know exactly what Mr Sarkozy said [to UMP deputies]“.
But some Irish politicians were sharply critical of President Sarkozy. Eamon Gilmore, opposition Labour Party leader, said that the French leader had “seriously put his foot in it”.
And Sinn Fein’s Aengus O Snodaigh called Mr Sarkozy’s comments “deeply insulting” to the Irish people.
Last month, EU leaders agreed that after analysing the reasons for the No vote, the Irish government would present its ideas on the treaty at the next EU summit, in October.
Brian Cowen ‘photo, from topnews.in), Irish prime minister, said in New York on Tuesday that the “implications and consequences” of the Irish No vote would have to be discussed in detail.
‘At the start of the process’
“It is not simply a matter internally, there is also the wider issue of discussing with colleagues within the European Union how they see things as well… we are at the start of a process here, rather than at the end”, Mr Cowen said.
While speaking on France 2 television, president Sarkozy’s close aide Henri Guaino, said that it was “one of the solutions” to ask the Irish to vote again, though he added that in that case, the text of the treaty would “probably … not be quite the same”.
He stressed that Mr Sarkozy’s remark about a fresh Irish vote was “not an official statement”.
As Ireland is a country extremely sensitive to anything that can be construed as bullying from its bigger European neighbours, French president’s difficulty is to find a way to sell the idea of a second referendum in Ireland, reports Hugh Schofield in Paris.
Currently, the EU is operating under the Nice Treaty, which was first rejected by Irish voters in 2001, before being accepted just over a year later, in a referendum re-run.
But after the EU constitution debacle in 2005, it is harder to re-run the Lisbon Treaty. In 2005, the constitution has been rejected by French and Dutch voters in 2005, and the EU decided against putting the constitution to another vote.