Monday, 4 May 2009

Times: Libertas targets European vote after Irish win
1.5.9, by Andras Gergely, Reuters
Strategically positioned on motorways, buses and boulevards, Libertas's election posters are a constant reminder to the Irish government that their Lisbon Treaty opponents mean business.

After helping derail the introduction of the European Union's reform treaty last year by campaigning for a "No" vote in an Irish referendum, Libertas has set its sights on winning scores of seats in the European Parliament elections.

The organisation, which started off as a pressure group in Ireland's referendum campaign, has now set itself up as a pan-European party and it is fielding candidates in most of the EU's 27 member states for the vote in June.

Ireland will be the key battleground and a strong Libertas showing a few months ahead of a second referendum on the Lisbon Treaty will send alarm bells ringing again in Brussels.

Libertas is fielding one candidate in Malta - Mary Gauci, a Gozitan.

"Libertas will have many more seats than even the largest parties from Germany, France, UK or Italy," Ganley told local businessmen on the campaign trail in the western town of Ennis. "It is achievable."

Prime Minister Brian Cowen is hoping concessions by Brussels, including the right to retain a commissioner, as well as assurances on taxation and neutrality will guarantee success in the new treaty referendum in the second half of this year.

Recent opinion polls have shown a steady majority in favour of the treaty, which is designed to speed up decision-making in Europe, and the bloc is regarded as an economic safety net from the global financial crisis

But opinion polls in the run-up to last year's vote also showed a majority for the Yes camp. Cowen's coalition allies, the Green Party, said there was a danger he might be too distracted by economic difficulties to run a more focused campaign this time.

"The Irish people, if they don't feel they have enough information, might choose to reject the treaty again," said Deirdre de Burca, the Greens' European affairs spokesman.

"It would certainly cause a collapse of the government and all kinds of very serious economic difficulties," de Burca, a senator and MEP candidate in the June election, told Reuters.

For the supporters of Libertas, being asked to vote again on Lisbon underscores the disconnect between the EU and its citizens, and the need for a pan-European party.

If Ganley had his way in Brussels, he would introduce a "2 for 1" rule to combat red tape, requiring the EU to scrap two pieces of obsolete regulation in exchange for each new initiative brought before the European Parliament.

Ganley, one of about 200 Libertas candidates, would also force thousands of EU lobbyists to be listed on an official register.

A recent opinion poll showed Libertas had barely made an impression on voters ahead of the June 5 election.

But Ireland's western constituency, where Ganley is running, has a record of voting in anti-establishment figures such as former Eurovision Song Contest winner Dana, a devout Roman Catholic and vehement opponent of abortion who won a seat in the European Parliament in 1999.

Ganley's campaign is attracting Catholics who view the Lisbon treaty as a threat to their religious beliefs.

"If he gets elected as an MEP he will be opposing that sort of thing, what we would call anti-Catholic legislation," said 78-year-old Edward Jones, who was canvassing for Ganley clutching copies of an article alleging the EU could force Christians to perform same-sex marriages.

[Click on the hyperlink above to view the comments.]

No comments:

Post a Comment