Minister says Ireland needs second EU treaty vote

DUBLIN Mon Aug 25, 2008 9:30am BST

A demonstrator holds a board during a protest in Dublin outside the government building where Ireland's Prime Minister Brian Cowen was meeting France's President Nicolas Sarkozy, in this file photo from July 21, 2008. REUTERS/Philippe Wojazer

A demonstrator holds a board during a protest in Dublin outside the government building where Ireland's Prime Minister Brian Cowen was meeting France's President Nicolas Sarkozy, in this file photo from July 21, 2008.

Credit: Reuters/Philippe Wojazer

DUBLIN (Reuters) - Ireland needs to hold a second referendum on the European Union's reform treaty to avoid isolation because all other 26 member states appear likely to ratify it, Ireland's European affairs minister said on Monday.

Irish voters plunged the EU into a diplomatic crisis in June when they rejected the Lisbon treaty, designed to end years of wrangling over the reform of the bloc's institutions.

Irish ministers have so far called it too early to say if Ireland would hold another vote on the treaty meant to replace the EU constitution rejected by French and Dutch voters in 2005.

"My personal view is that a referendum is the appropriate response to the position we are in," European Affairs Minister Dick Roche told the Irish Independent newspaper. "This is very much a personal view at this stage."

Foreign Minister Micheal Martin said last month Ireland would give the EU clarity on the way forward by a December summit.

Roche said, however, that all 26 other member states were likely to have ratified the treaty by the end of the year, which would leave Ireland in an isolated position.

"If we want to retain our position as a constructive EU member state, we cannot simply sit on our hands, as some would have us do, and keep saying that 'No' means 'No'," Roche told the Irish Independent.

French President Nicolas Sarkozy, whose country holds the six-month rotating EU presidency, was greeted by protestors chanting "No means No" when he visited Dublin in July.

"Mr Roche is not calling for a second referendum to be put," the Irish Independent quoted a government spokesman as saying. "That would not be a fair reflection. The Government is instead following the steps it said it would take in the wake of the referendum outcome."

(Reporting by Andras Gergely; Editing by Matthew Jones)

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