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Ganley amongst the mortals… that Oireachtas sub-committee meeting in full… November 21, 2008

Posted by WorldbyStorm in Irish Politics, Uncategorized.

Gaze in wonder at the workings of our legislative bodies, consider the dizzying heights of rhetorical and analytical processes of this state, marvel at the perspicacity of those members of the sub-committee and those who are but humble guests. And note that this is long, very very long indeed, so I’ve highlighted a few choice bits for your consideration. It’s so real it’s almost like being there. You’ll thank me for it… you will, really.

The sub-committee met in private session until 10.05 a.m.
[Now that part I’d have liked to have heard…]

Ireland’s Future Engagement in the EU: Discussion with Libertas.

Chairman: I welcome our guest, Mr. Declan Ganley, to the meeting. Before we begin I will explain the work of the sub-committee and how we will order our business. The sub-committee was set up to examine Ireland’s future in the European Union in the context of the Lisbon referendum result. We received four terms of reference from the Government and we have split them into work modules. We are in the final week of public hearings and have asked prominent members of the campaign leading up to the referendum on the Lisbon treaty to come before the sub-committee to give their vision for Ireland’s future in Europe and to make any points they believe are relevant in that context.

To get through our weighty work programme, each guest will have ten minutes to make a contribution and I will interrupt when the speaker has one minute left. I will then hand over to my colleagues. The sub-committee is divided into four groups, each of which will have ten minutes to put questions, following which anybody who has not had an opportunity to put questions will be given six minutes to do so. At the end, we will allow a final opportunity to put any outstanding points to the sub-committee. Our work will lead to a report which is due to be published next Friday. The contributions of witnesses will be published in the record of the Houses of the Oireachtas and will be used to frame our report.

Before I begin, I must inform our guests that while members of the sub-committee have absolute privilege, this privilege does not apply to witnesses appearing before it. I remind members of the parliamentary practice to the effect that they should not comment on, criticise or make charges against any person outside the Houses or an official, either by name or in such a way as to make him or her identifiable. Once Mr. Ganley has finished, I will invite questions from members in the following running order: Fianna Fáil, Fine Gael, Independent Members and the Labour Party. They will be allowed ten minutes and I will notify them when four minutes have elapsed.

Mr. Declan Ganley: I thank the Chairman for accommodating us at short notice. This meeting concerns Ireland’s future in Europe and asks where we go from here. I will use some of my time to look back and make clear to everybody, not just in Ireland but outside, something which we all know, namely that most of us who voted “No” – the majority of the electorate – did not vote against Europe. It was not a vote against the European Union or Ireland’s membership but a rejection of the Lisbon treaty, that being what we were asked to vote on. From my perspective, and that of Libertas, it is essential that Ireland is fully engaged with and at the very heart of the European Union. It would be very difficult to argue that the EU has been anything but good for Ireland or that our membership had not been extremely beneficial.

I speak with this accent because I am the product of generations of emigration from the west of Ireland. I hope that, in spite of these difficult times, my children will not be forced to emigrate, as my parents were and as I was in the late 1980s. Our membership of the European Union has contributed to the likelihood that my children will, I hope, not speak with the same accent as I do. It could be a worse accent, but not much worse.

We all recognise that the European project has been a peace process and it has, arguably, been the most successful one in the world’s history. We said this during the campaign. It is a miracle that, save for the tragedies in the Balkans and here at home, there has been such peace in Europe for so long. This is extraordinary and almost unprecedented and, for this reason alone, the project is worth preserving and promoting. Slaughter on the battlefields should never revisit this continent; those battlefields should remain historic monuments and nothing more.

I see the role of Ireland in Europe as extraordinarily important. It is extraordinary because we are a small country with a small population that has a big heart and big ideas. Not for the first time in Ireland’s history, we have an opportunity to bring to the continent a breath of fresh air and reinvigoration of the European ideal. We can put forward ideas and challenges to call upon our fellow citizens across Europe to rise up and grasp an opportunity for a new European renaissance. Ireland need not play second fiddle to anyone and nor need Europe – we are capable of leading. What will it take to fire up the vital energy across Europe so we can be world beaters?

Libertas believes the citizens of Europe must feel this is their project. We must call on them to be part of this and give them a sense of ownership, make them stakeholders, as the cliché says. How can we do this? It is difficult and challenging because Europe is an abstract and obscure thing to hundreds of millions of working people. Vaclav Havel said “Europe speaks to my head but says nothing to my heart”. How do we touch the hearts of these people and make them feel Europe is something they are part of and that listens to them? How do we make them feel Europe is something they can contribute to? Perhaps I am too simple but the only mechanism I am aware of to make people feel like stakeholders is the exercise of democracy at the ballot box. This is what makes us stakeholders in the miracle of European democracy, which has been established across the European Union since the fall of the Berlin Wall.

This document contains the so-called European constitution, which was drafted by the then chairman of the praesidium and his crew. This is an affront to the idea of participatory democracy, of reaching out and touching people’s hearts and making them stakeholders. It is an affront to it because it is the embodiment of the worst examples of what so-called elitism can bring about in Europe. If anybody was confused about the fact or doubted it before our referendum result, they just look at the evidence. I am not talking about here at home. I know politicians must engage in politics and so on. I understand all of that. Let us look outside of our own country and look at the reaction from people who would not give their own citizens a say. During his presidential election campaign, and after the French people had categorically rejected the formula democratically, as had the Dutch people, President Nicolas Sarkozy, the preening prince of the Élysée Palace, promised a mini-treaty and instead delivered something almost 10,000 words longer with almost no differences except a name change to by-pass the need to have a referendum in France. This is a certain contempt we are seeing. that people are chastised, that the integrity and motives of people on the “No” side and on the “Yes” are questioned. What do they want us to be? It is inferred that Ireland is turning eurosceptic. It is not. We are responsible. We are mature. We are very cerebral when it comes to analysing issues like this. We did not say “No” to Europe. We all know that. We are calling on Europe to step up and listen not just to us but to almost half a billion people across Europe who need to be made stakeholders in this project because if they are not it will fail. The European Union is too valuable a project, too great an idea to be dashed on the rocks of elitist political ambitions.

[point of information, while it is true that Sarkozy offered a mini-Treaty during his campaign this was not accepted by other European leaders. Surely it would be undemocratic for his idea to have been imposed. Particularly since Sarkozy is not “President” of Europe… Nor did he personally deliver a 10,000 word longer document… Simultaneously he also rejected the idea of Turkey entering the EU. Without prejudging Declan Ganley’s thoughts on Turkish accession one presumes that he would expect that to be a collective decision and not one determined by a candidate for the Presidency of France during an election campaign to that office?]

On 12 June we handed back Europe to the almost half a billion people to whom it belongs. Resolving this anti-democratic formula is not Ireland’s problem. Immediately people ask what are we going to do about it. The French, the Dutch, we and, I believe, most of the member states and citizens of the European Union would say exactly the same thing. The problem does not lie with any of us. The problem is with the rejection of the ideals of Jean Monnet, of Schumann, of De Gasperi who would not subscribe to this project. This is not the Europe those founders set out to build. This is a rejection of it. It twists what Europe should be. We should be very proud of the majority of the electorate in this great country who alone fought our Thermopylae and stood up for European democracy. Against all the bullying and pressure from outside we still stood up and did the right thing. I have travelled right across this continent since our result and I am absolutely convinced that the great majority of the European people are with us and with the sovereign decision that the Irish people made and, by God, that decision must be heeded. It is not good enough to be so condescending to the citizens of Europe and to all of us, whether we voted “Yes” or “No”, as to reject our democratic decision and say “Do it again, we will put a ribbon on it, we will throw you a few bones, you are bad Europeans”. We are not bad Europeans; we are serious, mature, thinking, good, progressive, Europeans and that is the attitude and disposition needed to ensure the long term future of the European Union and ensure that we are capable of being world leaders. Thank you, Mr. Chairman.

Chairman: Are the Fianna Fáil members sharing time?

Deputy Timmy Dooley: No, as I will probably use the time.

I welcome Mr. Ganley and his guests and thank him for his presentation. We are delighted to have him here and to have the opportunity to ask him a few questions. I will ask one question at a time.

During the course of the Lisbon debate, Mr. Ganley talked a great deal about the capacity of the Irish leaders to renegotiate the treaty. To which elements of the treaty did he refer at that stage?

Mr. Declan Ganley: Our documents will show that on several different occasions I said that at minimum, there would be a better deal available and I said, at minimum. Now we know that this is true. In the cut and thrust of politics people said there would be no possibility of such a thing. The question is, having done this, are we satisfied to allow for a coat of paint to be put on to this thing? Apparently they are not even going to bother changing the name.

Deputy Timmy Dooley: My question—–

Mr. Declan Ganley: No, I am answering the Deputy’s question. The thrust of the question – if I may be so bold – is whether we want to re-open this thing. The Irish people closed this and will not open again. Under the rules of the European Union this is a dead document. It should have been dead when the French people voted “No” to it and certainly when the Dutch people voted “No” to it.

Deputy Timmy Dooley: Luxembourg and Spain voted “Yes”, Mr. Ganley—–

Mr. Declan Ganley: Luxembourg and Spain voted “Yes” but—–

Deputy Timmy Dooley: —–and if one groups the votes together, there are more votes on the “Yes” side than on the “No” side.

Mr. Declan Ganley: Tony Blair and Gordon Brown reneged on the promise for a referendum in the UK. There is no referendum—–

Deputy Timmy Dooley: No, but I mean—–

Chairman: Deputy Dooley, allow Mr. Ganley to answer your question.

Mr. Declan Ganley: I am as sure as I know my name that if this was put to a referendum across Europe there would be a very substantial majority of Europe’s population and member states against this document. The question of re-opening this is not something this committee should seriously entertain. By doing that, it would reject the democratic will. It would be like looking at the United States and having the Bush Administration say, “The American people did not know what they were doing when they cast their votes for Senator Obama and really, we are in very difficult times and we need to make a few changes but we are in fact going to keep the Bush Administration or the McCain Administration and you are all going to have to vote again next spring or next autumn because you did not fully understand the implications of what you were doing, you poor little things.”

Deputy Timmy Dooley: I remind Mr. Ganley he purchased—–

Mr. Declan Ganley: It is an insult to democracy and the debate—–

Deputy Timmy Dooley: Just a moment, Mr. Ganley purchased three tickets for the Irish leaders prior to the vote—–

Mr. Declan Ganley: I did but they did not use them, unfortunately.

Deputy Timmy Dooley: Mr. Ganley’s intention was that they would and he appealed to the Irish people and said, “I have purchased tickets for them, I want them to go and renegotiate.” I ask Mr. Ganley to please tell us—–

Mr. Declan Ganley: I am going to answer your question.

Chairman: Mr. Ganley, please allow Deputy Dooley put his question.

Deputy Timmy Dooley: Will Mr. Ganley tell us which elements of the treaty he wanted to renegotiate? He may be able to confirm this but it now seems that he did not want renegotiation and he does not now want renegotiation. I ask him to stick to that question.

Mr. Declan Ganley: I will. I have negotiated one or two things in my time, in my role in business. When one negotiates, the first thing one does not do is throw one’s ace cards down on the table and give them to the other side. Within three days of our vote, what did Deputy Brian Cowen do when Mr. David Miliband called him and said it was up to the Taoiseach to decide whether or not the Lisbon treaty is dead? The only thing the Taoiseach had to do at that point was to do what the Irish people had democratically instructed him to do and pronounce the treaty dead at that point. The Taoiseach, however, did not. He remained silent. We do not know what went on over the telephones or behind closed doors. He did not stop the British Government from ratifying the treaty when he had been given the opportunity to do so. Deputy Dooley’s party gave away the very best negotiating card we had which was to stop the continuing ratification. In fact, the Government—–

Deputy Timmy Dooley: Why should we tell Britain what to do?

Mr. Declan Ganley: The Deputy needs to ask the Taoiseach, Deputy Brian Cowen, why he did not tell Mr. David Miliband when he said it was up to the Taoiseach to decide whether the Lisbon treaty was dead – the Taoiseach did not do his job and say the Lisbon treaty is dead.

Deputy Timmy Dooley: Neither of the gentlemen are here. It is me and Declan Ganley. Will Mr. Ganley please tell me what he wants renegotiated?

Mr. Declan Ganley: I just told you; your party gave away the best chip we had, and now we do not have it any more.

Deputy Timmy Dooley: Leave the chips out of it. What do you want renegotiated?

Mr. Declan Ganley: I told you in the opening—–

Deputy Timmy Dooley: You have not.

Mr. Declan Ganley: —–that we need to come back to basics and look at “where to – Europe” from this point.

Chairman: Mr. Ganley, you have four minutes left and I want to let Deputy Dooley put another question.

Deputy Timmy Dooley: I would like to continue this point because I have not got a satisfactory answer. Mr. Ganley spoke about his vision for Europe. Specifically, he told the Irish people that he wanted the three political party leaders to renegotiate the Lisbon treaty. He had a media event and purchased airline tickets to Brussels on their behalf. He still has not satisfied me – perhaps he might have satisfied other members of the sub-committee – as to what elements of the treaty he wants renegotiated. What are the fundamentals of his argument?

Mr. Declan Ganley: Any leverage we had was given away—–

Deputy Timmy Dooley: Can Mr. Ganley tell me for what he would have liked to use that leverage?

Mr. Declan Ganley: The best leverage we had was given away.

Deputy Timmy Dooley: Leaving the leverage aside, what are the specifics?

Mr. Declan Ganley: Now we have a decision. The Deputy’s question presupposes that he can ignore the democratic result of our referendum. You cannot, sir. I, as a citizen of this country, am telling you, you cannot ignore the democratic decision. The premise of your question requires me to ignore and disrespect the sovereign decision of my fellow citizens. I am not in a position to do that and neither are you.

Deputy Timmy Dooley: The premise of my question is based on your action. You appealed to the Irish people to vote “No” to strengthen the hand of the Irish negotiators. Inherent in that statement—–

Mr. Declan Ganley: Excuse me, that is not true.

Deputy Timmy Dooley: May I finish?

Chairman: Mr. Ganley, you cannot interrupt the Deputy’s question. You can respond in a moment.

Deputy Timmy Dooley: Inherent in that statement and that decision was that Mr. Ganley believed a better deal resided somewhere else for Ireland.

Mr. Declan Ganley: I do.

Deputy Timmy Dooley: Will he tell me in four sentences what the elements and framework of that renegotiation would be? Will he help us?

Mr. Declan Ganley: I will, absolutely. This is what we need. This treaty is gone; it is finished. We go back to basics. We say Europe needs a constitution—–

Deputy Timmy Dooley: Right.

Mr. Declan Ganley: —–or a fundamental treaty. It should be no more than 25 pages. It should be up front and honest in what it sets out to achieve. All of Europe’s citizens must be given a vote on it. That is how we make them stakeholders and feel part of the process. If we are to hand over more sovereignty to Brussels, as was envisaged in the Lisbon treaty, we must make absolutely sure that those exercising that power are democratically accountable to all of Europe’s citizens at the ballot box. That is the deal we need.

Deputy Timmy Dooley: So there are no elements and no specifics.

Mr. Declan Ganley: That is very specific.

Deputy Timmy Dooley: It is not specific.

Mr. Declan Ganley: I am sorry, sir, but it is very specific.

Deputy Timmy Dooley: I do not believe it is. I will go back to—–

Mr. Declan Ganley: What part—–

Chairman: Mr. Ganley, I will let you reply. I am going to protect the right of everyone to speak. It will be Deputy Dooley and then Mr. Ganley for a response.

Deputy Timmy Dooley: I go back to the fundamental point. Mr. Ganley indicated to the Irish people that there was a capacity to renegotiate the treaty. He purchased airline tickets for the political party leaders, putting forward the clear view to the Irish people that if they voted “No”, there could be renegotiation of the Lisbon treaty. He did not suggest it be thrown in the bin at that stage. All his commentary was about renegotiation and he encouraged the political party leaders to do it. Can Mr. Ganley give even one element of the treaty that he thinks should be renegotiated? If he can, he should give two.

Mr. Declan Ganley: I said during our campaign that we could get a better deal, and we can. The better deal is not in this document. It requires us to go back to the drawing board and start again.

Deputy Billy Timmins: I wish to share time with Deputy Creighton. I will put all my questions together.

Chairman: I will let Deputy Timmins know when he has been speaking for two minutes.

Deputy Billy Timmins: I would prefer to have three minutes each.

I thank Mr. Ganley for coming to the committee. There are a couple of observations from his contribution with which I have to take issue. He mentioned that many people did not vote “No” to Europe. I would argue that a large percentage of people who voted “No”, perhaps not including Mr. Ganley, voted “No” because they have consistently done so for all treaties. I would also take issue with Mr. Ganley’s certainty that if it were put to a vote by all citizens of Europe, the treaty would be defeated.

Many people have homed in on the funding of Mr. Ganley’s organisation, but from my point of view this is irrelevant once the regulations are complied with as required for every political party. The issue is a red herring. It may suit Libertas because it deflects from other things. What I am more interested in is Mr. Ganley’s vision for Europe. That is important because Libertas is a new player. We know what many of the other players, including the political parties, stand for. We need to know the vision of Libertas. Are we talking about a federal Europe? Mr. Ganley has mentioned the concept of a directly-elected president. Could he tell us, in a nutshell, what his vision is? He has mentioned the possibility of involving the citizens of Europe to a greater extent. This is a motivation for all of us and it is one of the reasons this committee was set up. I think Mr. Ganley may feel he is on trial. Does he feel a certain antipathy or aggression towards the committee or a sense that we are out to get him? We are not. If that is the impression he has, it is incorrect. We are here to try to learn from each other.

Does Mr. Ganley think we should be full participants in the common foreign and security policy? As he knows, we have played a rather peripheral part in that. The research carried out to examine the reasons people voted “No” turned up issues such as conscription, neutrality, tax and social issues. Does Mr. Ganley believe these suspicions were well founded and that the ratification of the Lisbon treaty would have had an impact in these areas? I may be incorrect in this assumption, but I believe Mr. Ganley mentioned a 25-page constitution for Europe. Did he draw up such a document and, if so, is it available? I would not mind having a look at it.

Deputy Timmy Dooley: It is a bestseller.

Deputy Billy Timmins: Virtual reality.

One of the things that struck me about the debate on the Lisbon treaty was the discussion of democracy. Libertas wants Europe to be more democratic. My belief is that the ratification of the treaty would have enhanced democracy, although it might not meet all the requirements of Libertas and others. It would have enhanced the role of the national parliaments. Would Mr. Ganley agree that a move from the veto system to QMV is a move towards greater democracy and that the concept of a veto is the antithesis of democracy?

Deputy Lucinda Creighton: I welcome Mr. Ganley, Mr. McGuirk and Ms Simons. It is good to have them here before the committee and it is important that we have this exchange. I would like to pick up on a point raised by Deputy Timmins, which is the idea of an alternative to the Lisbon treaty. It is clear that Libertas does not have the precise text for an alternative. Even when Éamon de Valera was trying to find reasons to reject the treaty he had the good grace to come up with an alternative document. [hmmmm….] If Mr. Ganley is advocating an alternative, he should produce it.

Mr. Ganley speaks of democracy and transparency all the time. I find that difficult to reconcile with his opposition to the Lisbon treaty. There is a raft of proposals in the treaty and, specifically, I point to the move towards greater decision making through the co-decision procedure, which would strengthen the role of directly-elected MEPs in the decision-making process. This would be very positive.

Mr. Ganley speaks of directly-elected representatives, which we have, but he seems to be opposed to giving them enhanced powers. In addition, he has opposed a strengthened and enhanced role for the Council of Ministers. These are directly elected in constituencies and represent us at ministerial level in Brussels. Proposals in the Lisbon treaty provided for them to meet in public and take new decisions in public. Surely that would enhance transparency and democracy. I find it difficult to understand why Mr. Ganley would oppose that.

Deputy Timmins referred to Mr. Ganley’s greater vision for Europe. It is important that we hear it because I have concerns about some of Mr. Ganley’s views. Specifically, I have major reservations about comments made by Mr. Ganley in 2003 regarding Iraq, when he said:

I would bet that the average citizen in Iraq will be a hell of a lot better off in three years time than they are today, or than they would be if some of Europe’s leaders had their way by sending off a few thousand UN blue helmets backing up gangs of inspectors on Saddam’s home turf.

By 2006, three years later, does Mr. Ganley believe the Iraqis were better off? Does he have problems with the United Nations? Part of his argument on neutrality bolstered the idea that Ireland should act on the basis of a UN mandate yet he criticised the UN for the work it does in peacekeeping, of which Irish troops are a major part. That is contradictory.

Chairman: We will now hand over to Mr. Ganley.

Deputy Lucinda Creighton: A final point is that Mr. Ganley talks constantly about unelected elites. What does that make Mr. Ganley? Is he part of an unelected elite? His wealth, power and connections put him in a position where he can influence people and host big dinners in the Shelbourne Hotel that ordinary citizens cannot. Mr. Ganley is not elected – is he part of an elite?

Mr. Declan Ganley: Regarding hosting a dinner in the Shelbourne Hotel, I am a citizen and I am free to host anybody I want any time I want and not have that data splashed all over newspapers from leaked documents from one or other Government agency. [That’s a most interesting charge… I’d have thought the info came from someone at the shindig…] As a private citizen, I am entitled to a smidgin of privacy.

On the Iraq issue, Deputy Creighton is on the record as having supported the Iraq war so let us—–

Deputy Lucinda Creighton: That is absolutely untrue and I challenge Mr. Ganley to find that quotation. For the record, that is not true. I never supported the invasion of Iraq.

Chairman: We need to have some order here. If Deputy Creighton wants to make a point of order, she can make it. Otherwise, Mr. Ganley has the floor and can respond to the questions.

Mr. Declan Ganley: I refer to Deputy Timmins—–

Deputy Lucinda Creighton: On a point of order, I absolutely never endorsed the invasion of Iraq and I would like Mr. Ganley to withdraw that erroneous statement.

Chairman: That is not a point of order. Mr. Ganley can respond to the questions put.

Mr. Declan Ganley: Deputy Timmins referred to a number of issues, which I want to address. He felt that a portion of the “No” vote, maybe a large portion, was anti-European. I do not think so. I was out trying to rally the “No” vote in my small way and spoke to many people across the towns, cities and villages of Ireland and that is not what I was hearing. I do not think the “No to Europe” part of the “No” vote was significant at all and it is declining, which is a good thing.

In some of the talks I have given on the referendum result I have said that euroscepticism is dead. A large number of people who would previously have been classified as eurosceptics have been won over by becoming stakeholders in the European project. This gives an opportunity to peel away a significant portion of those who are bundled in as eurosceptics. We can tell them there is a Europe which is democratic and accountable and a Union of which they can be a part. I may be wrong but the idea might even have some appeal to President Vaclav Klaus, who is widely considered to be ardently eurosceptic. He was certainly interested in the idea, though he and I have different views on Europe as we do on many other things.

Throwing stones at people who are against this exact project – which I do not accuse members of the sub-committee of doing – and suggesting we are against Europe because we are against one particular variant of it, is certainly not helpful and tends to drive people into the eurosceptic camp. It makes people want to classify themselves as such and has kept euroscepticism alive. If we want to ensure the project works and the old-fashioned form of euroscepticism does not keep growing, we need to use a different lexicon for these issues. The anti-European “No” vote is in decline in this country and across Europe and our vote will help ensure it continues to be so, unless the response to the result of the referendum is manifestly anti-democratic, in which case we will end up feeding it.

Deputy Timmins mentioned the vote across Europe and said he did not think—–

Deputy Billy Timmins: I do not want observations but answers to my questions.

Chairman: Mr. Ganley has approximately two minutes left. I ask him to respond to the questions of Deputies Timmins and Creighton. I will then hand over to the Senators.

Mr. Declan Ganley: The fact is that referenda have not taken place across Europe. The reason for this is the fact that Europe’s leaders know the outcome would be “No”. We need a Common Foreign and Security Policy, with a Minister for that purpose, rather than a “high representative”, as it is called in the document. The idea of a president or a figurehead of the European Union is a good and worthy one, as long as that and all other positions are fully democratically accountable.
[Interesting, a CFSP with a “Minister” suggests a much more executive style approach to such matters…]

Deputy Timmins asked whether I was in favour of a federal Europe, which is a very important question. I do not know whether to refer to it as a confederation or a federation but we are already in a federal Europe to a certain extent. The Union should grow closer together but competences should be exercised at the most local level possible and be democratic. However, it makes sense for certain areas, such as foreign and security policy, to be run at a Union level because great efficiencies can be derived from so doing. I do not know if members think of such an arrangement as federal or confederal and they can call it whatever they want. However, as long as it is democratic and the people get to decide, I am happy with it. As we all know, the people are sovereign.

Chairman: I have to hand over to Senators de Búrca and Mullen and ask them to inform the sub-committee how they will use their time.

Senator Déirdre de Búrca: I will start and I will share time with Senator Mullen.

Chairman: I will let the Senators know when three minute of each of their turns have elapsed.

Senator Déirdre de Búrca: I welcome Mr. Ganley and his colleagues to the sub-committee. I thank Mr. Ganley for his passionate presentation and was glad to hear at the beginning of it that he wishes to see Ireland remain at the heart of the European Union because the company he has kept since the Lisbon treaty referendum would suggest this may not be the case. He has been speaking to many die-hard eurosceptics in the UK and elsewhere and neocons in the US. These people are openly hostile to the European project; they have objected to it and tried to prevent its development since the early days so Mr. Ganley saying he wishes Ireland to remain at the heart of Europe causes me confusion.

I wish to tease out Mr. Ganley’s vision for the European Union to see how it differs from the views of the people he has spoken to since the referendum. It seems that Mr. Ganley’s vision is of a more democratic Europe; he seems to feel that the direct election of people to the European Union’s institutions by Europe’s citizens is the answer. However, there has been some vagueness about the institutions and types of election Mr. Ganley means. Europe’s citizens already directly elect Members of the European Parliament; is Mr. Ganley suggesting Commissioners should be directly elected? If so, he is probably already aware that the Commission must represent the interests of all of Europe, rather than the interests of individual member states. If Mr. Ganley is suggesting a Europe-wide election of Commissioners to the Commission it will put Ireland at a disadvantage. With a population of 4 million it would be difficult for us to compete with the electorates of large countries such as Germany, which has a population of 80 million. In that situation, how would Mr. Ganley prevent small countries like Ireland having little or no influence over the Commissioners who are eventually elected?

Does Mr. Ganley suggest there should be direct elections to the council of Ministers? At the moment Ministers directly elected in their countries represent those countries on the Council of Ministers. Does Mr. Ganley suggest there should be Europe-wide elections in this regard? If so, how would small countries like Ireland ensure their interests are represented by people who understand its citizens’ concerns?

Mr. Ganley said his problem lies with the Lisbon treaty and not the European Union and he mentioned that he has experience of doing deals. He probably knows that a treaty involving the shared interests of 27 member states is very difficult to achieve and that preventing a treaty being ratified effectively causes a crisis in the EU, with the potential unravelling of the agreement that has been achieved. In this sub-committee we are examining the scenarios that might emerge if the Lisbon treaty unravels. A two-tier Europe may be created with bigger states pushing ahead with greater integration, leaving countries like Ireland on an outer tier. Would Mr. Ganley be happy if his activities during the referendum caused a fundamental change in how the EU is organised, with Ireland and other countries relegated to a marginalised position?

Senator Rónán Mullen: Go raibh maith agat. I echo the welcome given to Mr. Ganley, Mr. McGuirk and Ms Simons. As Deputy Timmons said, far from hostility towards Mr. Ganley, we feel intimacy with them; we see him on television, last thing at night before going to bed, and then we see him first thing in the morning. I presume this privilege was previously only enjoyed by Mr. Ganley’s wife. [okaaaayyyyy….]

I will address my questions to all of the delegates because Ms Simons may have an interest in the legal dimension. If I understand Mr. Ganley correctly, he feels there should be no further steps until every member of the EU votes in a referendum on the future development of Europe.

Does Mr. Ganley mean a simple majority across Europe or does he mean a majority in each of the 27 member states? In some ways what Mr. Ganley says sounds quite federalist in that he speaks of a 25 page constitution and so on. Several of the questions I and others have raised at this committee have to do with Ireland’s need to maintain, if it wishes, its right to protect certain distinctive traditions regarding the protection of life, family and so on. Is there room in Mr. Ganley’s vision for that kind of local autonomy, given that the European Court of Justice has been accused of “competency creep” by no less a person than the former German President, Roman Herzog, President of the Federal Constitutional Court of Germany? Is it possible to avoid a situation where a document so powerful and central could be interpreted in a way that tends to harmonise rather than allow local autonomy in regard to certain issues?

Regarding an issue raised by my colleague, Senator de Búrca, could it be that the perfect could be the enemy of the good here? If our European partners are not willing to take Mr. Ganley’s counsel and subject any future treaty to popular mandate or to popular referendum, and if Ireland is seen to be standing in the way of progress, will Ireland be persecuted or lose influence? There has been much talk about that at this committee in recent weeks. In an undelivered part of her script, Commissioner Wallström, Vice-President of the European Commission, referred to our European partners becoming more frustrated with Ireland. If Mr. Ganley does not get what he wants, namely, popular decisions in each European member state, what does he think will happen?

Mr. Declan Ganley: I thank the Senator. He asked whether I believe that if we do not go along with this we will be persecuted or suffer some chastisement. I do believe that, and sometimes that is the price one pays for standing up for what is right for democracy. They are very annoyed and angry, particularly with me. However, fear of persecution or chastisement is a poor adviser when making—–

Deputy Thomas Byrne: Excuse me, Chairman, but a word is being bandied about here and I am not sure whether or not Mr. Ganley understands the meaning of it.

Chairman: Deputy Byrne, do you have a point of order to make?

Deputy Thomas Byrne: Yes. The word “persecution” has been used in a certain context.

Chairman: I disagree with that. I call Mr. Ganley.

Mr. Declan Ganley: Thank you, Chairman. In regard to chastisement—–

Chairman: Deputy Byrne will have an opportunity to come in.

Mr. Declan Ganley: We certainly should not get into a never-ending sequence such as we find ourselves in at the moment where every three or four years we must go to every member state in Europe to ask people to have a referendum on one matter or another, because that would make matters very difficult. I understand that the perfect is the enemy of the good in that situation and that is not a very practical formula. We need a sort of seminal moment in European affairs, a moment where everybody is given the opportunity to become a stakeholder. To answer another part of the question, every member state, even those with no tradition of holding referendums should ask people for their buy-in, for their approval for a fundamental treaty, constitution, call it what one wants.

[I know where he is coming from, but… even if we put the self-serving argument aside (and it is one with some potency) isn’t this precisely the sort of intrusion by the EU as an entity that the current set up is constructed to avoid?]

Once we have that short concise, understandable, readable document, we have a basis to move forward without having to have a new treaty drawn up every two or three years. At least what you will have done is gone out right across Europe. That is why it is not our problem but rather it is a European challenge. It is not a problem but it is challenge and an opportunity to go out, ask the question, campaign. If this constitutional treaty is right I will go out there and I will campaign in my own small way as ardently as I can for people to vote “Yes” to this. As I said in my opening statement, then they become stakeholders and that is how one gets them involved and this will, forever, put euroscepticism where it should be, which is in the historic past.

[And his comments on essentially forcing referenda on EU nations hardly jibes with…]

Local autonomy is a very important point. I hope I said earlier, and I intended to say it, that decisions should be made – indeed subsidiarity is one of the principles, in theory, of the European Union but it is not practised very well. [or with…] Subsidiarity, by definition, should mean that those decisions to do with our culture, our values and those things that the majority of our citizens hold precious and valuable, must remain with them. That is something that I, for my part, and also Libertas, would very much want to see in any future roadmap for a European constitutional treaty, namely, that it respected our ability to make decisions on issues that were key and important to us.

Chairman: I need to allow Deputy Costello to ask questions.

Mr. Declan Ganley: I did not answer Senator de Búrca.

Chairman: I will allow Mr. Ganley to wrap up but I want to allow everyone speak.

Mr. Declan Ganley: As an enthusiastic European for many years, I welcome Senator de Búrca from the folds of euroscepticism to pro-Europeanism. She is a great example of exactly why I am out speaking to people like she used to be who are against Europe, who have voted “No” in treaties and everything else and who, I believe, can be convinced of the essential fundamental correctness and rightness of a Europe that works, if we can get them to buy—– [entertaining… one has to hand it to him…]

Senator Déirdre de Búrca: Mr. Ganley is going to convert eurosceptics and that is why he is in Britain and in the US speaking to them. I thought he was organising a new political movement.

Chairman: Allow Mr. Ganley respond.

Mr. Declan Ganley: When the Irish Green Party could be converted, anybody can be.

Senator Déirdre de Búrca: That is a very interesting role, Mr. Ganley.

Chairman: Allow Mr. Ganley to finish.

Mr. Declan Ganley: I have finished.

Deputy Joe Costello: It sounds like the Irish monks of old going out to convert eurosceptics in Europe.

I thank Mr. Ganley for coming to speak to the sub-committee and I welcome Mr. McGuirk [Oh good God…] and Ms Simons. He has presented a very strong opening introduction. However, it was very strong on rhetoric and very short on specifics but perhaps this was intentional. It contained contradictions. He said he was at the heart of Europe, that he thought Europe was the best thing since sliced bread and he painted a glowing picture of his own position in it but then he did not have a good word to say about Europe as it is now. Everybody in Europe and everything that had been created by the European Union was elitist, anti-democratic, bullying. The scenario was entirely negative.

It seemed to me that in the past he had supported all those treaties, including the Nice treaty, but now suddenly he has a bogeyman in the Lisbon treaty. What is so terrible about the Lisbon treaty? Is it the values and principles regarding human rights? Is it the new powers that are given to the institutions, such as that the Council of Ministers must now conduct its business in public? Is it the Charter of Fundamental Rights? Is it the new powers that are given to national parliaments giving them more power in decision-making?

With regard to the Charter of Fundamental Rights, I recall that Mr. Ganley cast a lot of cold water on it and suggested it was a very dangerous charter. He stated that three year old children would be forcibly detained if the charter was put into law. He stated that the death penalty could be introduced. He raised the spectre of abortion, particularly in his campaign in the west of Ireland. Is Mr. Ganley standing over those views? Does he see the charter as essentially a dangerous and bad development?

The charter espouses workers’ rights. Mr. Ganley probably knows that, according to the Millward Brown survey conducted after the referendum, the single most important reason people voted “No” was their concern that workers’ rights were not being sufficiently protected in the European Union. What are Mr. Ganley’s views on the issue? Do his companies recognise trade unions or does he have a problem with this? Does he support the social progress clause that the European Trade Union Confederation suggested as a positive step forward? Does he believe public services should be provided by national governments without interference from competition rules?

The directly elected EU President Mr. Ganley proposes seems to be the opposite of what he wants. He claims he wants more democracy in the European Union and Ireland to have more influence. Ireland’s population of 4.5 million people accounts for 1% of the overall EU vote. In the case of a directly elected EU President, would that not deny Ireland a meaningful say?

[In a way it’s interesting that only De Burca and Costello address these fairly fundamental contradictions in such a clear way…]

Deputy Timmins asked if Mr. Ganley had a 25-page European constitution. If so, will he make it available to the sub-committee, as we would all like to read it?

Mr. Declan Ganley: I do not have a 25-page constitution. Would it not be wonderful to have one upon which we all could agree? The reason I do not have – or anyone else – a 25-page constitution is that a mandate would be required to draft such a document. I do not have a mandate. Sub-committee members do. I am just an ordinary citizen—– [Yeah, yeah. A simple multi-millionaire fisherman no less, from the shores of Galilee… converting bread into wine, McGuirk into a think tank representative (hold on a moment, there’s no miracle in that!), Libertas into a pan-European political party…]

Deputy Joe Costello: On a point of order, the sub-committee, as stated in its terms of reference, is seeking a way forward after the referendum.

Mr. Declan Ganley: I understand that.

Deputy Joe Costello: The sub-committee has tried to explore the views and suggestions of everyone who has attended to make progress on the issue of Ireland’s future participation in the European Union. There is not much sense in throwing it back at us and saying we are the only ones who can do it. We are trying to engage.

Mr. Declan Ganley: I did not mean it in that way.

Chairman: Let me respond to that point of order—–

Deputy Joe Costello: Mr. Ganley’s response was that it was up to us to do it.

Chairman: Deputy Costello, we have heard your point. The sub-committee provides a forum for members to put questions to a guest and for him or her to respond. That is what Mr. Ganley is doing. Deputy Costello will have time to put any further follow-up points he may have.

Mr. Declan Ganley: Deputy Costello, I did not mean to imply that you should draw up the constitutional document. It would be necessary to achieve a mandate to do it. It may need to be done by a body such as the European Parliament or another. The praesidium failed in meeting its mission statement, the Laeken Declaration. The Lisbon treaty is a failure of the job the praesidium was given.

We need to go back to the drawing board. It is difficult and awkward and no one wants to do it. I have heard it said in Brussels that there is no will to renegotiate the Lisbon treaty. If there is no will, the people concerned should step aside and allow those with the will to do so to do it until we get something to which people can subscribe. The hypothetical 25-page document should be sold by people with political skills to all of Europe’s population. Asking the whole population to subscribe to it would make them stakeholders. Is it fair that Ireland should be the only country in Europe to decide on the issue? Of course, it is not. Everyone needs to be given a say. The 25-page document should be the end result of a process – it could be done in six months – that would meet the objectives of what the Laeken Declaration set out to do. The praesidium failed dismally to meet that mission statement.

[Hmmmm again. How exactly would that work? Six months to determine a treaty? And in what sense would it be different to the current one? Surely whatever group established to write such a document would hit the obstacle of being seen as potentially ‘elitist’? What’s also striking is the language… ‘the document…should be sold by people with political skills…’. Sold -eh?]

For some of the members’ questions I would like to bring in my colleague, Ms Simons.

Chairman: I will allow Deputy Costello to ask a question afterwards.

Ms Caroline Simons: I wanted to address members’ questions about the charter and our views on that. There have been suggestions that we campaigned with regard to the charter on issues such as abortion, which was never part of the Libertas campaign. I came to the campaign quite late in the day but I am well aware of the arguments it put before the people – all of which were listed here – and abortion is not one of them.

Deputy Joe Costello: It did in certain parts of the country.

Ms Caroline Simons: I want to answer the Deputy’s questions. I am not avoiding them.

Deputy Timmy Dooley: What about the TV3 interview?

Chairman: Let the guest respond.

Ms Caroline Simons: In the TV3 interview, as far as I remember – and I am pretty good at remembering details – we could not say the charter would introduce abortion but neither could we say it would be effective in prohibiting it. However, that is not an issue I am dealing with. I want to answer the question.

[As an aside, is it just me or does our public discourse have a weird contradiction at its heart wherein the assumptions made and standpoints taken almost seem to indicate people think we live in a jurisdiction which permits abortion… not exactly in this case, where the inverse is being fought, but in terms of, say, coverage of the US elections, etc?]

Deputy Joe Costello: It is an issue—–

Ms Caroline Simons: May I answer Deputy Costello’s question?

Chairman: I will let Deputy Costello back in.

Ms Caroline Simons: With regard to the charter, let us be absolutely clear what the Lisbon treaty proposed to do. Under the Lisbon treaty – with reference to Article 6 of the Treaty on European Union – the rights in the charter would be recognised and the charter would be given the same legal weight as the treaties. What that means in plain English is that the charter would have primacy over our Constitution. In addition, while we now have the European Convention on Human Rights in our law, it is an inferior law to our Constitution and it has come into our law at a level below that of the Constitution. However, under the Lisbon treaty, where there is correspondence of rights between the convention and the charter, we would also take on those rights and the negative rights spelled out in the convention on human rights, and they too would have had primacy over our Constitution. This is the legal mechanism – the construct – that the Lisbon treaty set up.

[This is a fascinating element of the debate. The argument from the anti-Lisbon left has been that the Charter had no standing…and this was to some degree borne out by the positioning of the government over it. But here we have Libertas arguing the opposite case, that the Charter represented a fundamental step change and would supercede national Constitutions… who knows? It’s a ‘solemn declaration’ in itself and the Treaty text says that ‘it recognises the rights, freedoms and principles set out… which shall have the same legal value as the Treaties’. On the other hand the Charter itself states that ‘it – the Charter – shall not be interpreted as restricting or adversely affecting human rights and fundamental freedoms as recognised… by Union law etc]

There are certain things that have been thrown out. It was all very well several years ago when the European Union was an economic market dealing with economic issues. [Ah yes, the entirely mythical past where the EU was no more than a straightforward customs union…several years ago? I don’t think so]

However, in recent years, quite apart from this charter, the European Court of Justice has become very involved in the area of human rights and, as Senator Mullen mentioned, Roman Herzog, the former President of Germany and the head of the German constitutional court, has been so terribly exercised about this that in the course of the last year alone he has written three serious articles which I would like to mention for the record. The first was an article on the EU Constitution which was published on 14 January 2007 in Welt am Sonntag. The second was an article published on 6 July 2007 entitled “Curing Brussels of its ’centralising fever’ ”. The third article appeared on 8 September 2008 in the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung. It is extremely serious. This man is an eminent lawyer. His credentials cannot be questioned. Mine are very inferior in comparison to his. When a man of this stature says that the European Court of Justice is fabricating general principles of European law, that it is acting as a legislator and that it:

deliberately and systematically ignores fundamental principles of the Western interpretation of law, that its decisions are based on sloppy argumentation, that it ignores the will of the legislator, or even turns it into its opposite, and invents legal principles serving as grounds for later judgements … the ECJ undermines the competences of the member states even in the core fields of national powers.

That gives me pause for thought. [Fair enough, but it’s also worth noting that the ECJ has also been pretty conservative in its judgements, no bastion of radicalism the ECJ]

Chairman: I will have to interrupt Ms Simons. I thank her for her contribution. Deputy Costello has a minute left and he wants to make a final point.

Ms Caroline Simons: There is one final sentence I would like to say.

Chairman: One sentence, and then we will return to Deputy Costello.

Ms Caroline Simons: It is absolutely crucial that the word “subsidiarity” is more than just a word. We need to make sure a constitutional filter is active here to ensure that our Constitution and the Irish people are the final arbiters with regard to social and human rights issues.

Chairman: That was a long sentence [actually it was two sentences…], but I thank Ms Simons.

Ms Caroline Simons: I appreciate that.

Deputy Joe Costello: I hope the Chairman will give me a long minute.

I watched Mr. Ganley last night on “One to One”, and I heard him say he was totally in favour of a very strong supreme court for the European Union. That seems to be totally at variance with what Ms Simons has said. Mr. Ganley wants a federalist-type European Union with a constitution, a directly elected president and a strong supreme court, but Ms Simons is saying that the problem with the European Court of Justice is that it is too strong and it might interfere with matters. [There does seem to be something of a contradiction here and there in the Libertas stance 😉 ] Any of the measures in the Charter of Fundamental Rights would become European law and be subject to the European Court of Justice. It seems two opposite positions have been taken. Perhaps Mr. Ganley might clarify the matter.

How does Mr. Ganley envisage having the entire six treaties already agreed included in one document? I have asked this question already but there was no reply. What are Mr. Ganley’s views on the key issue of workers’ rights?

Mr. Declan Ganley: If the Deputy can obtain a tape of the show, he will see that what I said cannot be characterised in the way he has characterised it but it may have been possible to misunderstand. As I recall, I was asked a question on the European Court of Justice and it being strong. I cannot remember the question exactly but I replied that the European Court of Justice was already strong. I did not say I wanted it to be so, I made an observation on what I believed was the current state of play.

Deputy Joe Costello: Let me remind Mr. Ganley of what he said—–

Chairman: The Deputy should let Mr. Ganley finish. The Deputy will have another opportunity.

Deputy Joe Costello: We will both go over the tape. There is a contradiction.

Mr. Declan Ganley: To clarify, in case there is confusion on the part of the Deputy, the position of Libertas on the issue is as has been outlined by my colleague. The question of complexity was raised, whether all of the Lisbon treaty and other treaties could be included in a 25-page document. One cannot, nor should one do so. That is not what a fundamental treaty, as they call it in German, or a constitution which is what this really is, should do.

Deputy Joe Costello: Someone would have to write the constitution.

Mr. Declan Ganley: We need to get away from the need to have one treaty after another, which gives the opportunity to slip things in and for freedom and democracy to be eroded. It becomes a game of attrition where things are worn down. A constitution, a fundamental treaty on which everyone could vote, would end that process.

[I have some sympathy with this viewpoint. On the other hand constitutions aren’t immutable. Hence we have recourse to the people. And beyond them we have legislation which does require continual change]

Chairman: I will let everybody come back in. Those who have not spoken, Deputies McGrath, Byrne and Flynn, will have an opportunity to do speak. I will then allow everybody to make a final point.

Mr. Declan Ganley: I have not answered Deputy Costello’s question on workers’ rights.

Chairman: Mr. Ganley will have an opportunity to do so but I want to allow everyone to make some points first. Before doing so, I want to put some points to Mr. Ganley in response to his contribution. In some of his testimony Mr. Ganley used the word “persecution” in terms of how other countries would respond to us. As someone who has been present for all of the discussions, it is incumbent on me to say we have had representatives from other EU member states and commentators involved in monitoring what takes place. While we have found plenty of evidence of frustration and disappointment, we have found no evidence of persecution or that there is anyone with potential to persecute the country. I will allow Mr. Ganley to respond but he used the word “persecution”, a strong word to use in the context of our relationship with our neighbours.

Mr. Ganley referred to the leaders of other countries who were involved in putting together the treaty. He said if they could not accommodate our wishes they should go. The people to whom Mr. Ganley referred are democratically elected politicians. While we have the right to make observations about them we certainly do not have the ability to command them to go. Mr. Ganley wants an extension of democracy—–

Mr. Declan Ganley: The Chairman is putting words in my mouth.

Chairman: I will allow Mr. Ganley to respond to everything I say. He will see that I give everybody the opportunity to speak and to put questions, which is what I am doing. Mr. Ganley used the word “persecution” and said the people with whom we negotiated should go.

Some of my colleagues asked Mr. Ganley what he thought the content of a European constitution should be and he said he did not have a mandate to answer the question. As a very influential citizen in this State, what would he like to see in the constitution?

Mr. Declan Ganley: I was not the first person present to use the word “persecution”. It was a member of the sub-committee who did so and I tried to show some good manners by not correcting or chastising that member in the way the Chairman has chastised me. I merely repeated the word and I find the Chairman’s address to me rather patronising, by accusing me of having used the word in an inappropriate manner when it was used by a member of his panel. It is a loaded word and no one who has followed the reaction to the referendum can be under the illusion that we have not been bullied since the day the result came in. We are being bullied by people outside our country over the sovereign decision we made.

When I said people should go I was referring to background comments made by unnamed Commission officials. I do not single out individual leaders and I do not say that any leader should go – that would be a ridiculous proposition. However, it has been said that unnamed people involved in this process do not have the will or the energy to go back to the drawing board. If they do not have the will or the energy to do a job which results from the democratic process they need to move on and do something better suited to their skills and state of mind rather than be left in charge of coming up with the right formula for Europe.

The next question concerned what I, as a ordinary citizen, wanted to see in a fundamental treaty on a European constitution. I want a model for Europe that respects subsidiarity. As Senator Mullen suggested, it should ensure that decisions which can best be made at local level are made at that level. [Isn’t this, though, somewhat in contradiction to his strong ‘supreme court’, etc, etc…] It should create a strong Europe. I do not have a huge problem with the idea of an elected President, to be chosen by member states on a weighted basis, unlike in other places in the world. However, others might not want that, which is why everybody needs to be given a vote on this 25-page formula.

As an individual citizen, I want to feel that my view has a weight equal to those of my fellow citizens across Europe and that it will be listened to. I want to feel that nobody at the top of the EU’s structures will exercise power or represent me without asking me for a vote at the ballot box. I do not think this is an unreasonable expectation for any citizen of the EU, including me.

Chairman: I wish to ask follow-up questions and Ms Simons may answer them also. If I gave the appearance of being condescending towards Mr. Ganley I did not intend to do so.

Mr. Declan Ganley: Fine.

Chairman: My actions will indicate, regardless of the inference that Mr. Ganley drew from my language, that I have shown as much respect as possible to every witness before the sub-committee, including him. I will continue to do this.

I have two questions for Ms Simons. Does she support the idea of a directly elected President of the European Commission? Does she support the idea of directly elected Commissioners?

Ms Caroline Simons: One of the points the Chairman picked up from Mr. Ganley was that certain representatives in Europe should be removed if they do not do their jobs properly. Things are being written at the moment by people who are in favour of Europe, have worked there and are raising questions for all of us to consider. We are at a crucial point in our involvement with Europe. We are not alone in our decision on the Lisbon treaty because this week the Swedish Parliament took a step that may result in a constitutional review of its ratification of the treaty. The Poles, Czechs and Germans have yet to ratify so Ireland is definitely not on its own, though some in the media would have us think that.

In a book published this month, Derk Jan Eppink, a man who worked in the Commission for seven years, explained how treaties are negotiated. He said the public does not have much access to the negotiations. When the compromises are made and the deals are done the people representing us in Europe return to their countries and try to circumvent the will of the people by not having referenda. Or, as in the Irish case, when a referendum is held they may do nothing to implement its terms. Instead they ask questions in committees like this, with the greatest respect, suggesting referenda may not be appropriate vehicles for the introduction of European law. Questions have also been raised about the accessibility of citizens like us because we have not been elected and may have no ambition to be elected. Because we have not been elected, some deem that we do not have a right to involve ourselves in debates on referenda, which are the means by which the citizens of Ireland directly legislate. We must not forget that the referendum is the tool that indicates citizens and not politicians control the Government. This is very important.

We might examine the cases of non-EU countries. Switzerland is like a microcosm of the EU; there are 26 cantons and four languages. All of the powers agreed in the Swiss Constitution are within the sovereignty of each canton. Switzerland holds referenda three or four times per year, at the drop of a hat, to decide the level at which the cantons will co-ordinate and co-operate. We should do the same thing.

Chairman: Does Ms Simons believe we should have a directly elected Commissioner?

Ms Caroline Simons: People laughed about the role of the Commissioners. Ms Mary Banotti, MEP, is here and is a greater expert than I on this matter. Some say Commissioners do not have enough work and that there are not enough portfolios to hand around. The fact is, Commissioners are in the institution that initiates laws. [Although the Council and to a lesser degree the Parliament are in a position to stymie same – so, what precisely is the point?] It was proposed in the Lisbon treaty that every member state would lose a Commissioner for five of every fifteen years. However, the details are in the small print. The provision relating to rotating Commissioners says cognisance must be taken of the demographic and geographical status of the member state in question. A similar formulation was used for the European Central Bank’s board of directors and it means the regularity with which we have a seat at the table will be impacted on by the size of our country and its population. I ask Deputy Costello not to shake his head because the wording is there. I have had this discussion.

Deputy Joe Costello: That is a total misrepresentation.

Ms Caroline Simons: The wording will mean whatever the European Court of Justice decides.


Ms Caroline Simons: The words are: “taking account of the demographic and geographical status of the member state”. Only the European Court of Justice can say what these words mean.

Deputy Joe Costello: They protect us.

Chairman: I need to move on but would appreciate an answer to the question I put.

Ms Caroline Simons: As to whether there should be direct elections.

Chairman: Does Ms Simons believe the officers of the European Commission, specifically the President of the European Commission and the Commissioners, should be directly elected? The reason I ask is that Ms Simons has talked very well about the 25-page document. I am trying to find out what is in it.

Ms Caroline Simons: Let me make one suggestion. You should not be asking me. We should be asking the Irish people questions such as this. [Hmmm…]

Chairman: I thank Ms Simons.

Deputy Michael McGrath: I too welcome Mr. Ganley, Mr. McGuirk and Ms Simons and thank them for their contributions. I would like to raise a few issues. First, to what extent does Mr. Ganley have a problem with the current institutions of the European Union which have been set up by the treaties which have been ratified to date and which he has supported? He appears to be applying the issues relating to democracy, transparency and accountability in the context of the institutions as they stand which has nothing to do with the Lisbon treaty which proposes to take them further. Perhaps he might answer that point first.

Mr. Declan Ganley: My primary problem with the current institutions is that they are perceived to be detached from the people of Europe as they function and operate, although that is not always a fact. That perception is reinforced by specific circumstances of decisions being made behind closed doors and a tendency to suppress information. One example is the expenses report on MEP expenses abuse currently under lock and key in the European Parliament. I may be wrong but I believe taxpayers have paid in excess of €100 million to have that report done, yet they cannot see it because it is being held under lock and key and not being released to the citizens of Europe. This type of behaviour and the behaviour we witness in response to our referendum result combine to make Europe’s citizens hugely suspicious of the motives of these institutions and how they work. [I agree, but this is hardly restricted to the EU, consider the way in which details of our own national politicians expenses had to be dragged out… and to be honest it’s hardly the greatest issue in the world] They need not always be but they are because they do not feel they are part of it. We have, perhaps, a unique opportunity to fix this on the back of our result and make Ireland the catalyst for change. Ireland is a catalyst, given the debate that has been ignited across Europe. That is very healthy. It is very healthy to ask Europe’s citizens where the European Union should go from here and how we are to make it work. It belongs to all of us. Let us become engaged. This is about connecting with the institutions. If we have a perfectly functioning bureaucracy, a perfectly functioning set of institutions and the citizens do not feel they are part of it, it is ineffective and has no legitimacy.

Deputy Michael McGrath: I thank Mr. Ganley for his clarification. I take it from what he says that he has a problem with the status quo. It is not only about what is proposed in the Lisbon treaty. He has fundamental issues with the way the European Union operates, which is completely separate and independent from the Lisbon treaty. Mr. Ganley has outlined it clearly, for which I thank him.

Mr. Declan Ganley: I am not a eurosceptic.

Deputy Michael McGrath: Mr. Ganley has explained his issues with the European Union today; that is apparent.

Chairman: Was Mr. Ganley criticised?

Mr. Declan Ganley: Deputy McGrath is misrepresenting my position—–

Deputy Michael McGrath: Mr. Ganley has represented it.

Mr. Declan Ganley: In case that is the mistake the Deputy is making, I want to be very clear. During our campaign we talked about the fact that the European Commission had not had its accounts signed off by its own auditors for 13 years; the same situation has now occurred for 14 years. We should all have a problem with this. If we do not, we are a little too fanatically in favour of the status quo. We need to be able to question it; that would make us good Europeans. [That’s true-ish. 80% of the monies are disbursed by national governments. One can certainly blame the Commission – incidentally it’s not the Commissions accounts, but the accounts of the EU – for not making more effort to mitigate this, but as with everything in this the avoidance of specifics makes it difficult to take it on face value]

Deputy Michael McGrath: I wish to raise a specific issue which was a central tenet of Mr. Ganley’s campaign against the Lisbon treaty, the issue of corporation tax and Ireland’s ability to continue to set its own corporation tax rate. This was a key issue raised by Mr. Ganley. According to the Millward Brown-IMS poll, 43% believed the Lisbon treaty would definitively end Ireland’s right to set its own corporation tax rate, while a further 35% were unsure. Therefore, a total of 78% had a question; this was a seed of doubt which Mr. Ganley had quite cleverly sowed in people’s minds. Will he accept that the position in Ireland on direct taxation and corporate taxes is clear, as advised by the Irish Taxation Institute which appeared before the sub-committee recently? Will he agree that it would require unanimity and that it is a matter for the Government?

Mr. Declan Ganley: I will read from our campaign pamphlet which indicates our position on taxation because it was not as stated by the Deputy. In response to the claim by the “Yes” side that the Lisbon treaty would safeguard Ireland’s position on taxation our pamphlet stated:

Ireland’s tax advantage can be undermined. The EU has jurisdiction in matters of competition. The ECJ could rule on this issue by-passing our veto on taxation. Veto-proof destination taxes could also be applied via Lisbon’s enhanced co-operation provision, neutralising our tax advantages. Furthermore, changes could be made to our tax status without the need for a further referendum.

That is what the people heard us say and what they rightly understood to be the position on taxation. The result bears this out. That is what Libertas said. [An interesting argument. The people heard a proposition. They voted accordingly and therefore that proves the proposition is correct…]

For the future we need to be able to maintain flexibility in tax competition and ensure these loopholes and back doors to interference with the policy are dealt with. The issue of tax harmonisation across Europe was very firmly on the agenda. The French Finance Minister made it very clear and said it would be a priority for the French Presidency. Our result put that particular priority where it belonged, at the back of the pile. This was, therefore, a great achievement which the people in their great wisdom made possible.

Our pamphlet also stated:

Keep Brussels hands off our taxes … France has said it is committed to harmonising taxes in the EU. This means that we could have to pay the same rates of tax as them. Low taxes have been great for Ireland. Article 269 of the treaty allows the EU to raise its own taxes. That means that the Irish people could end up handing over money directly in taxes to Brussels without the need for a further referendum … You are not being told about that now but if you vote “Yes” and then wonder why your taxes increase, you will be told, “Ah, you voted for that under Lisbon”.

We were told the loss of our Commissioner was something for which we had voted for under the Nice treaty, although it certainly was not headlining anybody’s campaign when campaigning for a “Yes” vote.

Chairman: Thank you, Mr. Ganley. I call on Deputy Thomas Byrne.

Deputy Michael McGrath: On a point of information, Chairman.

Chairman: Deputy McGrath will have an opportunity to come in at the end.

Deputy Thomas Byrne: I apologise for being late for the meeting. I am not sure who Mr. John McGuirk or Ms Caroline Simons represent? Are they employed by Libertas, volunteers or employed by some other entity? I must ask Ms Simons to withdraw her assertion, which is either based on a fundamental misunderstanding of the treaty or an untruth, that the system for appointment of Commissioners would be similar to that for members of the European Central Bank. It simply is not the case.

Ms Caroline Simons: I did not say that.

Deputy Thomas Byrne: She did.

Ms Caroline Simons: I did not. [she said “A similar formulation was used for the European Central Bank’s board of directors and it means the regularity with which we have a seat at the table will be impacted on by the size of our country and its population.” You decide.]

Chairman: Ms Simons, I will ensure you can respond to Deputy Byrne.

Deputy Thomas Byrne: She is attending a Dáil committee trying to pull the wool over its eyes. Luckily enough committee members have read the Lisbon treaty and know its wording and each line of it.


Deputy Thomas Byrne: We do, Mr. Ganley.

Chairman: Deputy Byrne, you have the floor.

Deputy Thomas Byrne: Ms Simons has ignored the fact that there is unanimity for the Commission while there is qualified majority voting for the European Central Bank. There is a strict system of rotation in the treaty for the Commission and not for the European Central Bank. Member states shall be treated on a strictly equal footing as regards the Commission, not for the European Central Bank. Ms Simons has stated the opposite to this. She would not say that under oath. It does not become her as a solicitor to misrepresent us on the treaty. It is the same misrepresentation that she and Mr. Ganley used for Article 5.1.d of the European Convention on Human Rights during the referendum.

[Deputy Thomas Byrne ]

Does Mr. Ganley agree with a statement published in Jane’s Intelligence Digest on 17 January 2008 that “US policymakers are concerned that the provisions of it [the Lisbon treaty] could present serious challenges to transatlantic intelligence and homeland security co-operation”? While we are glad Mr. Ganley’s company is securing contracts with the US Department of Homeland Security, does that statement from a respected defence and intelligence magazine represent some of his views?

When Mr. Ganley chose to expand on the idea of Libertas being a pan-European political party, why did he choose to do so in the journal of the US Foreign Policy Research Institute? Why did he not go to the Irish Independent or The Irish Times to promote his views on what is maybe a good idea?

Mr. Declan Ganley: I tried to but they did not want to print it. I used to send many letters to The Irish Times which never made it, understandably. Maybe space was an issue.

Deputy Thomas Byrne: So Mr. Ganley went to the Foreign Policy Research Institute.

Chairman: Deputy, please allow Mr. Ganley to finish.

Mr. Declan Ganley: I submitted that paper to several think tanks. The Foreign Policy Research Institute was the one that published it at the time and I was glad of that. That institute is affiliated with the University of Pennsylvania. I do not know what the magazine article referred to was about.

Deputy Thomas Byrne: It is a very simple question. I asked if he agreed with it.

Mr. Declan Ganley: My position on Europe and the Lisbon treaty is as I stated, more importantly, during the course of the campaign.

As the Chairman said, we are all here to figure out ways in which Ireland can embrace what I hope is our key future in Europe. We have a unique and historic opportunity. It would be a great shame for Europe if we do not take this opportunity to challenge Europe to rise to the occasion and engage its citizens. If we do that we will have done something powerful and powerfully good for the European project.

Deputy Thomas Byrne: Does Mr. Ganley agree or not with the statement in Jane’s Intelligence Digest ?

Mr. Ganley: No, I do not agree with it.

Ms Caroline Simons: Regarding the treaty on the composition of the Commission and, particularly, retirement of its members, the Commission has to be composed to reflect the demographic and geographical range of all the member states.

Deputy Thomas Byrne: Subject to point (a)—–

Chairman: Let Ms Simons finish.

Ms Caroline Simons: The Deputy cannot actually say what that means because it has been interpreted in other forums to mean—–

Deputy Thomas Byrne: It has not been interpreted in other forums. Where has it been interpreted in other forums?

Chairman: The Deputy will have an opportunity to put his question. Let Ms Simons finish.

Ms Caroline Simons: The Deputy cannot say exactly what it means. How does one reflect the demographic and geographical range of a member state? How do we compare demographically and geographically, for example, with a country such as Germany? I understand from people who work in the European Union that with regard to the European Central Bank and its board of directors, one will not find the bigger countries rotating and retiring but that one will find the smaller countries doing so. There is no guarantee on how these words will be interpreted. The Deputy cannot give that to us.

Deputy Thomas Byrne: That is a deliberate misrepresentation of the treaty—–

Ms Caroline Simons: No.

Deputy Thomas Byrne: —–which Ms Simons has done before. I again invite her to withdraw it.

Ms Caroline Simons: No.

Deputy Thomas Byrne: Ms Simons has omitted the fact that this is subject to point (a) which reads: “Member states shall be treated on a strictly equal footing”. She has ignored this completely in her assertions; that is what she has done constantly during this debate.

Ms Caroline Simons: How can it be equal if it has to reflect the demographic and geographical range of the member states?

Deputy Thomas Byrne: Because Germany will be in with Ireland at the one time.

Ms Caroline Simons: The Deputy is not a judge on the European Court of Justice and neither am I.

Deputy Thomas Byrne: Big countries will be in with small countries. Ms Simons is ignoring the point made in the treaty. She is ignoring the written text to suit her agenda.

Ms Caroline Simons: It is not so.

Chairman: Deputy Byrne, I have let you make your point. This is not a chat show we are running.

Deputy Thomas Byrne: A solicitor is coming in here and misrepresenting the written wording of an international treaty.

Chairman: Deputy Byrne has made that point and I have allowed Ms Simons to respond.

Ms Caroline Simons: I have one last point to make.

Chairman: Ms Simons may make one point. Deputy Byrne will then conclude and it is over to Deputy Flynn. I am doing this to make sure everyone has an opportunity to speak and participate.

Ms Caroline Simons: It is a little like Through the Looking-Glass.

Deputy Thomas Byrne: It is plain English.

Ms Caroline Simons: Words mean what I say they mean. It is plain language, but we cannot say in what manner there will be a reflection of the demographic and geographical range of the member states—–

Deputy Thomas Byrne: Ms Simons cannot say “strictly equal footing” does not mean “strictly equal footing”.

Chairman: Deputy Byrne, I will adjourn the meeting if you keep this up.

Ms Caroline Simons: These words are newly introduced in the treaty and there for a reason.

Deputy Thomas Byrne: I would just like to say to Ms Simons—–

Chairman: I will adjourn the meeting.

Deputy Thomas Byrne: Ms Simons is Alice in Wonderland.

[I really really wish that this sort of ‘quip’ was left behind. It really symbolises the worst of what is termed a ‘debating’ style within the Oireachtas. Is there any human alive who thinks that it’s clever or insightful?]

Chairman: Deputy Byrne, we will adjourn if you keep this up. The Deputy will have an opportunity to put a final point to any speaker who is here at the end.

Deputy Thomas Byrne: It is a disgrace that witnesses are coming in here and misrepresenting the written wording of the treaty.

Chairman: Deputy Byrne, you have had an opportunity to make your point.

Deputy Beverley Flynn: I welcome the delegates. I have a question for Mr. Ganley about the CAP. He is a west of Ireland man and I am a west of Ireland woman. The farming community in the west generally recognises the CAP as one of the success stories of the European Union. Mr. Ganley referred to it in 2003 as a weapon of mass destruction. Last night I heard him say it did a huge disservice to farm families, particularly in the west, in that it created dependency and was demeaning. I would like him to expand on this. What would he do differently?

Mr. Declan Ganley: To give it its due, the CAP has improved somewhat since the Fischler reforms. However, the best example of the success or failure of a programme such as the CAP is whether it provides an income and lifestyle for those engaged in farming on a par with the income and lifestyle of those engaged in other areas of the economy. The answer to that question, as the Deputy and I both know, is no. We can look around villages at home, west of the River Shannon, and see this. Our neighbours would be able to tell us this, as they have told me on plenty of occasions. I do not think, for example, that huge corporate farming enterprises should benefit to the extent they do, to the detriment of smaller farming families, particularly those we find in our part of the country. It is not working. It has turned farmers to over-regulated dependence on benefits which are handed out in a way that is somewhat offensive to their dignity.

Let me give a specific example. In villages close to my home in east Galway bogs are being closed as a result of EU directives; the same thing is happening in parts of County Mayo. My mother is from Achill Island and I think the same thing is happening nearby. People are being told they cannot go out and cut turf on the bogs where generations before them have done that, drawing home the winter fuel. Instead people must buy imported oil and burn that. I am told that if they continue to cut turf on those bogs it has been intimated that it will affect their REPS payments. I do not know if that is true—–

[Ah, the ‘oul sod…the green grass of home… the (insert folksy rural reference to indicate a communion with the landscape)]

Deputy Beverley Flynn: It is not.

Chairman: The Deputy should let Mr. Ganley finish.

Deputy Beverley Flynn: I would like to focus on CAP. Some 10,000 farmers paraded through the streets of this city.

Mr. Declan Ganley: My brother is a farmer.

[Welcome to the European farms race… note how each side introduces bigger and better farms]

Deputy Beverley Flynn: Many of our friends and relations are farmers. They regard the CAP as the success story of the EU. Mr. Ganley has described it to them as demeaning and a weapon of mass destruction. This is how he has labelled the 10,000 farmers who walked through the streets.

Mr. Declan Ganley: I think the EU should do much more for them. [Uh-oh]

Deputy Beverley Flynn: That is a different point.

Mr. Declan Ganley: They were protesting against the WTO.

Deputy Beverley Flynn: To say that it should do much more is one thing, to describe it as a weapon of mass destruction and demeaning of farmers is entirely different. I make that point in defence of the farmers because they reject Mr. Ganley’s point out of hand.

Mr. Ganley has made a major point about the importance of the individual vote in the referendum. Does he accept that between Ireland, France, the Netherlands, Spain and Luxembourg – the countries that voted directly on the referendum on Lisbon – the number of people who voted “Yes” is greater than the number of people who voted “No”?

Mr. Declan Ganley: Deputy Flynn is trying to change the rules.

Deputy Beverley Flynn: It is a very simple question.

Mr. Declan Ganley: I do not accept it because it is twisting the situation in Europe to suit Deputy Flynn’s agenda.

Deputy Beverley Flynn: I have no agenda. I reject that.

Mr. Declan Ganley: The fact is that if the people of Europe were given their say on this treaty, the anti-democratic formula, they would vote “No”. That is precisely why—–

Deputy Beverley Flynn: That is not the question I asked.

Mr. Declan Ganley: Nicolas Sarkozy said to me in this town a few months ago that the French people would vote “No” if there was a referendum in France.

Chairman: Deputy Flynn will be allowed to put another point, if Mr. Ganley is finished, before calling Senator Prendergast.

Mr. Declan Ganley: I have made my point.

Deputy Beverley Flynn: The number of people who voted “Yes” is greater than the number of people who voted “No”. This is Mr. Ganley’s point about individuals having their say.

Mr. Declan Ganley: The rules of the EU require unanimity on these issues. If she is going to use that yardstick as a measurement, it would be rather foolish to not include the will of the people who were promised a referendum and then denied it because the governments knew there would be a “No” vote.

Deputy Beverley Flynn: Does Mr. Ganley respect the number of people in those five countries who had a direct say in this? Does he respect that the majority of those people voted “Yes”?

Mr. Declan Ganley: I respect the outcome of every referendum in every member state and the rules of the EU that state that it requires unanimity. Does the Deputy respect and heed the democratic will of the Irish people who have said “No”?

[I think Flynn is on a sticky wicket here… I’m curious that Ganley didn’t come back more forcefully]

Deputy Beverley Flynn: With all due respect, I am trying to get an answer.

Mr. Declan Ganley: Does Deputy Flynn heed the democratic will of the Irish people who have said “No” to the Lisbon treaty? Yes or no?

Deputy Beverley Flynn: I am asking the questions.

Chairman: I thank Mr. Ganley.

Deputy Beverley Flynn: I have one follow-up question.

Chairman: Deputy Flynn will have an opportunity to do so in a moment. I must be fair to everyone.

Senator Phil Prendergast: I thank the Chairman. Everyone is very welcome. [Very very welcome. Very very very welcome, particularly the guy who tilted the referendum to the No camp. He’s very very very very welcome… repeat ad infinitum through gritted teeth] Many points have been covered. The “No” vote won the propaganda war but not the argument for the reasons that have been very well touted. It had a bigger campaign budget and was out of the traps earlier. British sceptics and media had an influence and played to the enduring “No” vote in our constituency. There was a poor performance from the Government and the European polity generally. Mr. Valery Giscard d’Estaing described the treaty as a European constitution written in a language no one understands. This view was endorsed by our elected members. Both Charlie McCreevy and the Taoiseach subscribed to that view. We know from soundings taken at the sub-committee and elsewhere that many “No” voters had a misunderstanding of or were simply wrong as to what the Lisbon treaty meant in respect of our Commissioner. Cardinal Brady told the sub-committee that the idealism of the European Union seemed to have been lost and people saw it for its bureaucracy, legislation and economics rather than its social and human values, a point on which I agree with him. [There then follows a bit of euroscepticism lite] The Union is a confusing and meddlesome entity but we must take responsibility for reminding people of the social progress we have made since becoming part of it. We also need a counterbalance to the growing power of global corporations.

[There then follows a bit of pragmatism lite]
The issue ultimately is one of practicality.
As a businessman, Mr. Ganley might recognise that we must adapt to market circumstances. As democrats, we have a window of opportunity in which to accept the will of the majority in the European Union or become a bit-part player. Realigning or redefining ourselves within the Union will come at an economic cost in the short or medium term. In the global market place Ireland Inc. cannot afford this; our EU partners cannot renegotiate the treaty for the same economic reasons. In the global economy the place of EU Inc. is at stake. What would Mr. Ganley do to fix the problems we face?

Mr. Declan Ganley: One cannot point to a single company which has gone out of business or withdrawn its investment from Ireland because of the result of the Lisbon treaty. The Senator has said people who voted “No” did not understand the treaty. She characterised their vote in a demeaning way and has insulted Irish voters. Has she ever heard me say the people who voted “Yes” did not know what they were doing or fully understand the implications? They had their right to vote “Yes” or “No” for whatever reason motivated them to go to the ballot box.

Senator Phil Prendergast: Can I make a point in that regard?

Chairman: Let Mr. Ganley finish.

Mr. Declan Ganley: As one citizen, I will not be talked down to and told we did not understand what we were doing. The majority of the Irish people – I am one of the majority on this issue – who voted “No” did so for their own very good reasons – the same reasons they voted for some of the members present when they put themselves forward for election. No 20 people who voted for the members present did so for exactly the same reasons. People have their own reasons – that is democracy. It is not a precise surgical instrument but something different. Having heard some of the Senator’s comments which I also heard from other members present, it worries me how out of touch some in the political Establishment are, whether they are in the Government or Opposition parties. They are detached from the reality on the streets of how people feel on the issue.

It is very clearly the agenda of some in this town to rerun the referendum and force us to keep coming back to the issue until they get the answer they want. As somebody once said, it seems the beatings will continue until morale improves.

Senator Phil Prendergast: I wish to clarify my comments. I would not tell anybody how he or she should vote on a personal level. Under the Lisbon treaty we could retain a Commissioner, whereas under the Nice treaty we are to lose one for a period of several years. There were misunderstandings on many aspects of the treaty because of the coverage they received in the media, including the abortion issue which became part of a debate in which it had no place. People were worried because material placed in churches, for example, targeted certain segments of the community which objected to voting for something that might change fundamental rights. I am and always will be pro-life – nothing will change that for me – but there was an over-reaction to what I had said. The sub-committee has met for three or four days every week for several weeks and heard many discerning views. When we look back on what has been said this morning, it will be analysed and placed in context. The sub-committee is extremely fair and I am not judging any person or situation. I have listened to Mr. Ganley, Ms Simons and Mr. McGuirk all morning and I am very interested in what we have heard. I thank the delegates for their contributions.

Chairman: I thank the Senator. I will now give everyone an opportunity to make a point and all members of the sub-committee are signalling that they wish to do so. Mr. Ganley may respond and make any further points he wishes. I will begin with Deputies Creighton, Timmons, Byrne and Dooley.

Deputy Lucinda Creighton: I would like to ask my question again on the democratic steps outlined in the Lisbon treaty, specifically the measures relating to the European Parliament and Council meeting in public. There are many contradictions. The delegates have said they are concerned by what they hear from us; I am certainly concerned by much of what I hear from them. Ms Simons made a point on the European Court of Justice ignoring the will of the legislature or legislator. She proposes a European supreme court that would be given a mandate to interpret a 25-page document. This would give it the widest possible latitude and inevitably give rise to the erosion of subsidiarity. That is the reality in not having safeguards and why treaties are detailed. Some friends of the delegates refer to the treaty as unintelligible drivel but the reality is that it uses necessary legal language to ensure we would not end up with conflicts. We try to ensure the greatest possible level of clarity.

[around here I was losing the will to live. Thankfully the following exchange occurred…]

I ask Mr. Ganley to retract the statement he made regarding my position because he is incorrect. It is unbecoming of him to enter this sub-committee meeting and make wild allegations about a member. He has alleged that I somehow supported the invasion of Iraq. I tell him in no uncertain terms that I did not. If he stands over that allegation, I will ask him to produce evidence. I know his information comes from a source not far from where he is sitting.[Who could that be, who could that be?] If he cannot stand over his allegation, I ask him to retract it because it is highly insulting to me and borders on slander; it would reduce me in the estimation of any right-minded person. I have strong political views in a variety of areas which I have no fear of standing over. Libertas used some of my views out of context in its poster campaign – I was the only politician in the country targeted in his or her constituency in such a way. I did not complain or make an issue of it but found it bizarre and a strange use of money in the context of the campaign Mr. Ganley was running. He has now come before the sub-committee and alleged that I supported the invasion of Iraq when, in fact, I took the contrary position. I ask him to retract.

Deputy Thomas Byrne: I again ask Ms Simons to withdraw her assertion that appointments to the European Central Bank and the Commission are the same because it is a blatant untruth put before the sub-committee. I am still not sure whom she represents. I asked her another question that she also failed to answer. She based many of her press releases and campaign statements on Article 5.1.d of the European Convention on Human Rights but has failed to demonstrate any knowledge of that provision. I will give her one last chance to demonstrate some knowledge of it because Libertas based a substantial part of its campaign on it.

Deputy Billy Timmins: I have an observation to make and some questions to ask. First, the construction Ms Simons sought to put on the issue of the Commissioner undermines much of what she contributed and she should reflect on what she said. Second, Mr. Ganley should apply different criteria with regard to the test of the success of the CAP.

On conscription, neutrality, tax and social issues, will Mr. Ganley say what concerns people had? Were they grounded in fact or perception? How did he feel about voting on Nice when it was rerun? Whether one agrees with him or not he has a certain conviction, although there might be different strands to his organisation. Can we expect him to put himself before the electorate in the European elections in June? It would be helpful if he did, so that we could learn more about his organisation and what it stands for. Despite Mr. Ganley’s conviction, I am still very unclear as to what his organisation stands for.

Deputy Timmy Dooley: I thank the Chair. I will again ask my first question. Having sought a renegotiation of the treaty, having spent money to assist or facilitate the leaders in doing that, could Mr. Ganley again outline for us what elements of the treaty he would have renegotiated? Second, how many people does Mr. Ganley employ in Ireland and in Europe?

I draw Mr. Ganley’s attention to the Foreign Policy Research Institute document because it shows to some extent his views on Europe. I would like him to comment on his statement that only leaders with a democratic mandate can govern and that if they seek to govern all of Europe all of its citizens must have their say. To which leaders did he refer? In that document, in the context of the relationship between the EU and the US, Mr. Ganley stated that we are cut from the same cloth after all but the US finished stitching its quilt before we did. Does that say something about his view of a federalist Europe? Is that the quilt about which he speaks? Does Mr. Ganley view the stitching of the quilt as the development of a federalist Europe?

Mr. Ganley also spoke in his document about the Common Agricultural Policy. He suggested today that it is demeaning to farmers, many of whom I represent, and I have a mandate to represent them. Mr. Ganley described the CAP as “a weapon of mass destruction” because of its trade barriers and subsidisation. He obviously wants to remove trade barriers and subsidisation. Can he tell me how those small farmers for whom he seems to have regard could survive by selling their produce on the word market at world prices without the subvention cheque they receive in the post? I remind Mr. Ganley that at the weekend farmers were again on the streets protesting that because of budget cuts they will no longer get some element of the cheque in the post. To the extent that they were prepared to march in quite considerable numbers over the weekend in that regard, it seems they do not feel demeaned by the cheque in the post.

Chairman: Deputy Dooley, I will need to go to your colleagues. Mr. Ganley, I must ask you not to answer the question regarding how many people you employ. That is not within the terms of reference of the sub-committee.

Deputy Timmy Dooley: On a point of clarification, Mr. Ganley has put himself forward as a businessman with interests in Ireland and Europe. Mr. Rellis came before the committee as the managing director of Microsoft and spoke on behalf of other business interests. I asked him similar questions, whom he represented and the numbers of people employed. If Mr. Ganley is presenting himself to the Irish people as understanding the business ethic and the implications for Ireland and Europe, it is wholly relevant that we at least understand in an overarching way the kind of presence he has in Ireland from a business point of view.

Chairman: Mr. Ganley is entirely entitled to outline his business credentials in whatever way he wishes.

Deputy Timmy Dooley: He has not answered any of my questions today and it is unlikely that he will.

Chairman: I am responding to your point.

Deputy Timmy Dooley: I have posed questions.

Chairman: I have given you every opportunity to put questions. Mr. Ganley has the opportunity to respond. Nonetheless, I do not believe it is appropriate, given our terms of reference, for Mr. Ganley to outline how many people he employs. I will now go to Deputy Costello and then Deputy McGrath.

Deputy Joe Costello: It certainly seems that Libertas is a mass of contradictions, misrepresentations and scare mongering in regard to the Lisbon treaty. There is a total contradiction between what Mr. Ganley said last night regarding an all-powerful supreme court of Europe and what Ms Simons said about the European Court of Justice which is that it is a dangerous body because it interferes too much.

Mr. Declan Ganley: It is not what I said.

Deputy Joe Costello: It is absolutely. I took a note of what Mr. Ganley said in that respect. I question the statement that the Common Agricultural Policy is a weapon of mass destruction. [The farms race steps up another gear] As I have a brother who is a farmer, I know exactly what is happening in the west. [I have a brother in London. You can well imagine I know exactly what is happening in that metropolis of millions]I also question the statement that the death penalty and abortion would be introduced by the Charter of Fundamental Rights. I know this information was put about in the west because my brother lives there. The statement I thought to be mind-boggling and most bizarre was that the charter would result in a three year old being forcibly detained. I ask Mr. Ganley to tell the sub-committee how this would happen.

The other point I raised which Mr. Ganley indicated he would answer was the subject of trade union recognition and workers’ rights. Does he accept that a member state has the right to provide public services of high quality without having to abide by competition rules? Is this his view? What is his view on trade union rights? The European Trade Union Confederation proposed there should be a clause on social progress to guard against a race to the bottom in the free movement of labour.

Deputy Beverley Flynn: I remind Mr. Ganley that in 2001 he voted “Yes” in the Nice treaty referendum and that in 2002 he voted “Yes” to Nice II. By his own admission, he had not even read the treaty at the time. He took words of comfort from Commissioner Byrne and undoubtedly other politicians whom he admired. He had no concerns. He has admitted to Deputy McGrath that he now has problems with certain institutions within the European Union as it currently operates. In other words, at the time of the Nice treaty, known or unknown to him, there were problems but he still voted for it. What changed in four years that in 2006 caused him to set up Libertas and spend between €800,000 and €1.3 million, depending on whom one can believe, in fighting a campaign on the Lisbon treaty? What happened to bring about this change in his attitude to the European Union and that made him feel so strongly about it that he put that amount of money into fighting the campaign?

Deputy Michael McGrath: I will return briefly to the taxation issue. Mr. Ganley has omitted to mention that Article 113 relates to indirect taxation, that enhanced co-operation would not compel Ireland to change its corporation tax rate, that Article 269 states the European Union could only raise resources by unanimity and that he made an implicit reference to the CCCTB which has been knocking around for about 20 years and bears no relationship whatsoever with the Lisbon treaty. However, my main point is that he stated initially that he wanted Ireland to be at the heart of the European Union. I suggest, therefore, we return to the bigger picture of where we are today and where we want to go. Mr. Ganley will acknowledge that there is no openness among our European partners or the vast majority of them, at least, to renegotiation of the treaty. There appears to be a determination among them to press ahead with key Lisbon treaty reforms, whether it be through enhanced co-operation or other legal mechanisms. Where does Mr. Ganley want Ireland to be in that context? If our European partners have adopted that position, which is their entitlement, and wish to press ahead with key reforms by means of the legal mechanisms available to them, is it Mr. Ganley’s view that Ireland should withdraw from the European Union and that we would be better off not participating in such a union?

Mr. Declan Ganley: We should not withdraw from the European Union.[That’s an interesting statement, an obvious follow up question would be what would his position be if Lisbon II was lost and a new referendum asking us whether we were in or out was placed before the people] This pressure to isolate us from some corners of Brussels has, it appears, been actively encouraged by people here who should be putting the result and decision of the Irish people first but who are—–

Deputy Michael McGrath: Will Mr. Ganley clarify that remark?

Mr. Declan Ganley: I will. David Miliband asked the Taoiseach and said it was up to the Taoiseach to say whether the Lisbon treaty was dead. The Taoiseach through his silence acted as Pontius Pilate and washed his hands. He did not speak up and say the Lisbon treaty was finished because the Irish people had voted “No” to it. That was a huge missed opportunity. It is very clear to me that there is a policy on the part of some who should be representing our sovereign decision to isolate Ireland and are receiving encouragement to do so.

Deputy Michael McGrath: Will Mr. Ganley name them, as it is an open forum? He is just using the word “some”. Will he just name people?

Mr. Declan Ganley: I am not going to throw out names willy-nilly.

Deputy Michael McGrath: Mr. Ganley should stand over his comments.

Mr. Declan Ganley: I will stand over them and say—–

Chairman: Deputy McGrath, will you let Mr. Ganley respond?

Deputy Michael McGrath: He is not responding. That is the whole point.

Chairman: Give him a little time.

Deputy Michael McGrath: It has been happening all morning.

Chairman: I respect that. Many of the Deputy’s other colleagues have questions. We must allow Mr. Ganley to respond.

Deputy Timmy Dooley: The bogeyman.

Deputy Michael McGrath: I wish he would.

Chairman: If the Deputy gives him time, he might well do so.

Mr. Declan Ganley: I have been told by representatives of governments which have met our Government that they have been told it is our wish to be isolated.

Deputy Michael McGrath: By whom? This is JFK conspiracy stuff.

Mr. Declan Ganley: No, it is not a conspiracy, Sir.

Chairman: Order. A series of questions have been put to Mr. Ganley by many members.

Deputy Michael McGrath: Chairman, he is casting outrageous aspersions on the Government. He should stand over his statement and say who told him. What is there to hide?

Chairman: We have given Mr. Ganley an opportunity to do so.

Deputy Michael McGrath: What is he hiding? Who told him? To whom are they referring?

Chairman: Mr. Ganley has to have the right to offer his answer uninterrupted. Otherwise, our ability to do our business would be non-existent. I call Mr. Ganley.

Mr. Declan Ganley: I stand over what I said.

Deputy Michael McGrath: Name the representatives.

Mr. Declan Ganley: Regarding the many on the losing side representing a minority view in this country, it is appalling to see charades being played to try to walk us into a second referendum. That is a disgrace, particualrly after a sovereign decision has been made.

Deputy Thomas Byrne: On a point of order—–

Chairman: Yes.

Deputy Thomas Byrne: It is not correct or in order for Mr. Ganley to describe the sub-committee as “a charade”.

Mr. Declan Ganley: I did not say the sub-committee—–

Deputy Thomas Byrne: To what else is Mr. Ganley referring?

Mr. Declan Ganley: Is the Deputy suffering from a guilty conscious?

Deputy Thomas Byrne: Chairman, that is what he did.

Chairman: If Mr. Ganley described the sub-committee as a charade, I would have been the first to interrupt him, as I have done with other guests. As I did not hear him say that, I will allow him to continue.

Deputy Beverley Flynn: It was a thinly veiled reference to the sub-committee.

Deputy Thomas Byrne: This is the elected Parliament of the people.

Chairman: We are all aware of that but I can only make rulings on what I hear. If Mr. Ganley described the sub-committee as a charade, I would have been the first to interrupt him, as I have done with other guests.

Mr. Declan Ganley: Deputy Dooley referred to my “stitching a quilt” comment. I do not want to duck the question.

Deputy Timmy Dooley: Mr. Ganley has ducked the other questions to take this one.

Mr. Declan Ganley: Deputy Dooley referred to me speaking on the American experience with democracy, building their constitution, uniting the states and all the challenges they went through. There are some lessons to be learned, both positive and negative, from this. We are, however, striking out in uncharted territory, a point made on both sides. The stitching technique will be entirely new. I want to ensure everyone believes they have their patch in that quilt and that it is respected.

Deputy Timmy Dooley: Does Mr. Ganley want a federalist solution?

Chairman: Deputy Dooley, please.

Mr. Declan Ganley: I have no problem with being called a confederalist, federalist or anything else. These labels actually do not even suit that on which we are embarking.

Deputy Timmy Dooley: Mr. Ganley should forget labels and tell us what he stands for.

Mr. Declan Ganley: I have said it. I stand for democracy. I stand for one woman, one man, one vote on issues at the ballot box. These votes must be heeded, listened to and carried out whether we like it. Sub-committee members are delegated sovereignty or power by voters at the ballot box in the electoral process. What democracy gives me as a citizen is the ability to vote for something and, most importantly, if I do not like the way something is being carried out, to vote against it. It is the right to say no to something or somebody. When it comes to legislation, those who represent us on the global stage – those stitching the European quilt – must be connected with the citizens of Europe; otherwise, it will fail. That is what I meant by my quilt stitching comment.

Deputy Beverley Flynn: On a point of information—–

Chairman: Mr. Ganley, I am hearing points of order.

Deputy Beverley Flynn: I will try to get it in by way of a point of order.

Chairman: I will decide whether it is a point of order.

Deputy Beverley Flynn: I would like to correct Mr. Ganley. He makes a big issue of “one woman, one man, one vote,” but more people have voted “Yes” for the Lisbon treaty in the five countries in which there have been votes. He does not get it.

Chairman: That is not a point of order. The Deputy has made her point.

I ask Mr. Ganley to refer to the comments made by the rest of my colleagues because we need to finish up this part of the day’s business.

Mr. Declan Ganley: Somebody – I think it was Deputy Byrne, although I may be wrong – asked whom we represented. Let me answer him. I am just one single Irish citizen expressing my views.

Deputy Thomas Byrne: Who are Mr. McGuirk and Ms Simons representing?

Chairman: Deputy Byrne.

Mr. Declan Ganley: So are Mr. McGuirk and Ms Simons. We are here as individual citizens.

Deputy Thomas Byrne: They are not.

Mr. Declan Ganley: We are part of an organisation.

Deputy Thomas Byrne: Chairman, they are not here as individual citizens.

Chairman: Deputy, hold on. Before I finish, I would like the Deputy’s colleagues who put questions to hear a response and they will decide whether that response is satisfactory.

Deputy Thomas Byrne: All right.

Chairman: In the few minutes we have left Mr. Ganley has questions to answer and he has the right to do so.

Mr. Declan Ganley: I say to all the Members elected to the Houses that they represent the people, the majority of whom have given them their orders – their decision – on this issue. They work for them and we all need to respect and heed the decision they made, not undermine it.

Deputy Timmy Dooley: On a point of order, I remind Mr. Ganley that I represent a constituency, the members of which voted “Yes”. How do I deliver that message?

Mr. Declan Ganley: That is fair enough.

Chairman: Deputy, of all the points of order I have heard today, that undoubtedly bears the least resemblance to a point of order.

Mr. Declan Ganley: But it is a good point.

Deputy Timmy Dooley: I ask Mr. Ganley to help me with it.

Mr. Declan Ganley: The Deputy was doing his job.

Deputy Creighton asked about democratic steps in the Lisbon treaty. Yes, there are some. It would give enhanced powers to the European Parliament, but what we would be giving up on the other side of the deal, in terms of sovereignty and the ability to hold accountable those making decisions, would vastly outweigh the minuscule sop being thrown to the European Parliament, the weakest of the institutions in Brussels, although it is the only democratic one. That equation really needs to change.

Deputy Lucinda Creighton: What about the Council of Ministers?

Mr. Declan Ganley: I hope the European Parliament has the potential to go a long way towards correcting the imbalance – the democratic deficit, as Brussels calls it.

Regarding the Iraq statement, if I am incorrect on that, I apologise.

Deputy Lucinda Creighton: I would like a full retraction because Mr. Ganley is incorrect.

Mr. Declan Ganley: Deputy Creighton brought up the subject. Scurrilous things have been said, outside of privilege, about me, my business and my motivation for being involved in this campaign. That is hurtful to me. I have never done politics before and perhaps this is the price of it.

Deputy Thomas Byrne: Mr. Ganley is doing very well.

Mr. Declan Ganley: That is all I have to say.

Ms Caroline Simons: There were a couple of issues raised by Deputy Costello and others. Regarding the Commissioner, under the Lisbon treaty—–

Deputy Joe Costello: I did not refer to that.

Ms Caroline Simons: Deputy Costello did not but the issue was brought up and I wish to address it. Under the Lisbon treaty, Ireland loses its right to propose its Commissioner. This did not come out in the debate. If Lisbon becomes law, we are left with the right to suggest a number of names and the incoming President of the Commission will select the Commissioner. That is important but the Referendum Commission included the fact that we could nominate our Commissioner. That is not true – we can only suggest, which is a weaker position.

Under the Nice treaty, we know that from 2009 the number of EU Commissioners must be fewer than the number of member states. There are many ways of dealing with that. A proposal was made that rotation would involve losing our Commissioner for five out of 15 years. We could also agree with member states that the number of Commissioners would reduce by one and that the High Representative, Javier Solano, could sit in an ex officio position. Anything is possible in order to keep representation at Commissioner level.

Regarding the wording, about which members are so exercised, I was trying to make a simple point. I do not know the import of this but I am simply making the point that there is new wording in the Lisbon treaty that suggests that the composition of the Commission must reflect the demographic and geographical range of member states. We do not know what that means.

Deputy Thomas Byrne: On a point of order, I must get this point across.

Ms Caroline Simons: Let us leave it at that but that is a fact. Its meaning is not clear.

Chairman: Deputy Byrne has raised a point of order.

Ms Caroline Simons: Thank you.

Deputy Thomas Byrne: To reflect what Ms Simons said earlier, she stated that the Commission would now be appointed on a basis similar to that of the European Central Bank. It is not in order for her to say something different now.

Chairman: It is not a point of order, which is about how we organise our business, not an argument.

Ms Caroline Simons: I might ask Deputy Byrne for clarification because I do not have the benefit of having the European Convention on Human Rights in front of me. He has a question on the charter and I would like to address it.

Chairman: I will not allow Deputy Byrne again.

Deputy Thomas Byrne: I want to intervene because it is very important. The witnesses do not have a clue.

Chairman: The Deputy may want to but—–

Deputy Thomas Byrne: They were issuing press releases about this during the campaign and now Ms Simons has demonstrated she does not have a clue.

Chairman: There will be other opportunities to have this discussion but other colleagues have their points to be answered.

Deputy Thomas Byrne: She has not got a clue and I will tell the media what it is afterwards if they want to know. They issued press releases about it and now she is asking if I can tell her what the wording is. That is what I asked her.

Chairman: I have a point of order from Deputy Costello.

Deputy Joe Costello: I understood that my questions were being answered on the Charter of Fundamental Rights. I have two questions.

Chairman: I will not allow further questions under a point of order.

Deputy Billy Timmins: I have further questions.

Chairman: I will not allow further questions from Deputy Timmins under a point of order.

Deputy Joe Costello: I am not seeking to ask further questions.

Chairman: I understand that Deputy Costello wants his questions answered and Mr. Ganley has signalled that he will do so, after which I ask him to return to the points made by Deputy Timmins before we adjourn. If Mr. Ganley has forgotten the questions at this stage I will allow Deputy Costello to restate them.

Deputy Joe Costello: I will certainly refresh his memory.

Mr. Declan Ganley: On the issues of whether governments should be allowed to provide exclusive services—–

Deputy Joe Costello: Public services, without the normal rules of competition.

Mr. Declan Ganley: Should they be able to do so? If that is what the majority of people want, on a subsidiarity basis, in that state or region the answer is “Yes”.

Deputy Joe Costello: What about trade union recognition?

Mr. Declan Ganley: Absolutely. I come from a long line of ordinary working people on both sides of my family. Everybody has the right to be in a trade union if that is what they want. They should not be forced to be in a trade union but they should have the right to be heard as members of one.

Deputy Joe Costello: I have just one more point. Where in the charter of fundamental rights does it state that three year olds can be forcibly detained if the treaty is passed?

Chairman: Deputy Timmins is the only member who has not called a point of order.

Deputy Billy Timmins: I have three very simple questions on the concerns about conscription, tax, neutrality and social issues. Were those concerns grounded in fact? How did Mr. Ganley feel towards the vote on Nice two? Can we expect Mr. Ganley to stand in the European elections? It would be a good thing if members of his organisation ran so that we could see exactly for what it stood.

Mr. Declan Ganley: Conscription was not something Libertas brought up during the campaign. I did not think conscription was a serious risk posed by the Lisbon treaty. People who had those feelings and voted for that reason did so out of a sense that they were losing control over future decisions. That was based on one of the articles in the treaty which meant changes could be made without the need for another referendum and, in that respect, people were not wrong to be concerned. It was stretching the argument, however, to suggest conscription was a likelihood.

What was the question on Nice?

Deputy Billy Timmins: Mr. Ganley is very adamant there should not be a rerun of the referendum. How did he feel when he had to vote a second time on the Nice treaty?

Mr. Declan Ganley: That is a great question. At the time, there had been a general election between Nice I and Nice II. In that general election, parties campaigned and made promises in their manifestos to the effect that they would hold another referendum. The people had the opportunity to voice their opinion in a democratic way and there was a democratic mandate, of sorts, to hold a second referendum. There is no such mandate at present in respect of the Lisbon treaty. [One never knows, perhaps that too will come to pass]

Deputy Timmins asked whether Libertas would run candidates in Ireland at the European elections. I would like that to be the case but do not know if we would be able to. We would only do so if we could run candidates in a number of states across the European Union because, given the current circumstances and the dispositions of people on both sides of the argument, the only way we could bring the debate back to where it needs to go, which is into Europe and into Brussels, is through the mechanism of the European elections. They are not the perfect mechanism but it would be the best way to ignite the debate across Europe and force people to take sides and say what they stood for. It would stimulate the establishment of a genuinely European politics that are not tied to individual member states but are broader and would give everybody the opportunity to have their voices heard. If stimulating the formation of those European politics, by opposing the arguments that have been made, shedding light on issues, asking questions and playing hardball on European affairs, is the only thing we achieve it will be a success. I hope we will be able to do it but I do not know that we will. It is very challenging to get the resources because there must be a significant number of candidates to tell anything from a result. We are in the process of studying whether it can be done. We are certainly making efforts in that respect. In terms of setting out policies, as the sub-committee members do when they run for election, I would like to be able to do this as it can only be good for democracy, Ireland and Europe. I am very much in favour of this.

If the only thing the members take from today’s meeting is an understanding of where we are coming from, I hope they will bear the following in mind. The Irish people are European to the core and we see our future as being at the heart of Europe. We want to use this opportunity to stimulate debate and bridge the democratic deficit that has been spoken of for years. This is our chance to fix it and we should take the opportunity.

Deputy Joe Costello: On the last point of order, I am still waiting to hear how three year olds could be forcibly locked up.

Ms Caroline Simons: I take that to be a question about the Charter of Fundamental Rights. I have already explained the mechanism the Lisbon treaty sets up that will enhance the position of the European Convention on Human Rights in Irish law and that will introduce the charter into the laws of all member states. It will have primacy over the national constitutions of member states.

The wording of the Lisbon treaty refers to the charter as adapted at Strasbourg on 12 December 2007. If we look for a version of it we will find an explanatory document that was produced by the praesidium on the charter. The charter contains positive rights, such as respect for private and family life, home and communications. This is an advanced version of the earlier version that referred to correspondence instead of communications. If we look to the European Convention on Human Rights—–

Deputy Joe Costello: Could I just—–

Chairman: This is the final answer we will get.

Ms Caroline Simons: This is very important.

Chairman: I appreciate that this is important; that is why I am letting it go on the record.

Ms Caroline Simons: There is no point in interrupting me, so please let me answer.

Chairman: With the greatest of respect to Ms Simons, I am doing my best to chair the meeting and will give her all the time she needs to answer the question as the final point of the day.

Ms Caroline Simons: I beg the Chairman’s pardon. My comment was not directed at him.

Deputy Joe Costello: I asked a simple question. How will three year olds be locked up if we approve the Lisbon treaty?

Chairman: We all heard the Deputy’s question and Ms Simons is answering it.

Ms Caroline Simons: It is a very simple point. There are negative rights, or restrictions on human rights, set out in the explanatory document relating to the convention and the charter, which are not in our Constitution. For example, there is a right to freedom and privacy in communications but this may be circumscribed by reason of the economic well-being of the country. Economic factors are being introduced to restrict the exercise of human rights and this is a new concept in Irish human rights law.

Deputy Joe Costello: On a point of order—–

Chairman: Excuse me, almost all members of the sub-committee have raised their hands to make points of order. I will hear Deputies Costello and Byrne. If they make points of order I will hear them out, if not I will stop the meeting.

Deputy Joe Costello: My point of order is that I asked a question of Mr. Ganley which Ms Simons answered. Mr. Ganley made the statement that three year olds would be forcibly detained if the Lisbon treaty was passed. Can Mr. Ganley give a short answer to that question?

Chairman: I thank Deputy Costello and call on Deputy Byrne.

Deputy Thomas Byrne: I propose that this committee sit for another ten minutes to deal with this issue. I raised my point on the European Convention on Human Rights several times and Ms Simons demonstrated that she has not got a clue what it contains. She is now justifying this by referring to the detention of three year olds. She is the weakest link.

Chairman: We have a proposal to sit for a further ten minutes.

Deputy Thomas Byrne: That is the point I was making.

Chairman: I will allow the meeting to proceed until the answer is complete and we will then finish.

Deputy Joe Costello: I want a straight answer.

Chairman: I want a short answer to this.

Mr. Declan Ganley: Deputy Byrne’s comment that my colleague is “the weakest link” is very insulting and condescending.

Deputy Thomas Byrne: I withdraw the comment.

Mr. Declan Ganley: It is indicative of the Deputy’s condescension to the majority of voters on the “No” side.

Chairman: I ask Deputy to withdraw that comment.

Deputy Thomas Byrne: I withdrew it.

Chairman: You have withdrawn your comment about the weakest link. Mr. Ganley may respond to the point made.

Mr. Declan Ganley: We have answered the point. My colleague made that response. If the committee wishes to look further into the point I refer it to Title II – Freedoms, Explanation on Article 6 – Right to liberty and security, clause 1(d).

Deputy Joe Costello: On a point of order, my question was specific. Mr. Ganley’s assertion was specific. He asserted that three year olds will be forcibly detained if the Lisbon treaty is passed. I am asking where that is provided for in the Lisbon treaty. Will Mr. Ganley read out the section that states three year olds, two year olds, four year olds or five year olds will be detained? We can only come to the conclusion that there is misrepresentation here unless Mr. Ganley answers the questions.

Deputy Timmy Dooley: In the same vein, there was also an element that dealt with the death penalty. I would like the two to be treated together.

Deputy Thomas Byrne: I emphasise again that I withdraw the comment I made. I should not have said it. However, a fundamental misunderstanding has been demonstrated here today by the representatives of Libertas of the Explanatory Memorandum on the Charter of Fundamental Rights. When we asked Professor Binchy about this assertion last week, and I assume he voted “No” based on what he said, he described the assertion as “remarkably odd”.

What Mr. Ganley is quoting from is not Article 6.1 of the Explanatory Memorandum. In the Explanatory Memorandum the explanation on Article 6 refers to Article 5 of the European Convention on Human Rights. Article 5 of the European Convention on Human Rights is very clear. It quotes from that, not Article 6.1. The wording quotes from Article 5, not Article 6, of the European Convention on Human Rights which, as Professor Binchy said last week, has served us well for many decades. What it states is very clear. It states that everyone has the right to liberty and security of person. It goes on to list some exceptions. There are exceptions in that people can be imprisoned having committed a crime.

On the issue of three year olds, the detention of a minor is referred to in Article 5.1(d) of the European Convention on Human Rights which has been in existence for 50 years and of which Mr. Ganley has been unable to demonstrate any knowledge at this meeting. Article 5.1(d) of the European Convention on Human Rights refers to the detention of a minor by lawful order for the purpose of educational supervision. A minor who has been arrested for committing a crime cannot go the European Court of Human Rights and say his or her right to liberty and security has been violated. Mr. Ganley has shown a demonstrable lack of knowledge of this provision. This is normal. Of course we have people in educational detention facilities who have committed crimes or who are unsuitable to be released. There are some in my constituency. That does not mean that three year olds will be locked up. That is a completely false assertion.

Chairman: Deputy, you have made your point.

Ms Caroline Simons: I will take that point. It simply states that minors can be detained for the purposes of educational supervision. The point was being made by Mr. Ganley—–

Deputy Thomas Byrne: It is in the European Convention on Human Rights.

Deputy Joe Costello: Would Ms Simons answer my question?

Ms Caroline Simons: I did not make the point, but the point, quite simply, was that three year olds could be detained for the purpose of educational supervision. The point that was being made in relation to the convention generally and in relation to—–

Deputy Joe Costello: Is it true or is it false?

Chairman: Deputy Costello—–

Deputy Joe Costello: I must assert that that is a false statement.

Chairman: I will adjourn this meeting if people continue to speak over the Chairman and speakers who are participating in the discussion. Ms Simons, if you want to finish off your answer—–

Deputy Joe Costello: On a point of order—–

Chairman: I want to hear Ms Simons complete her answer before I hear any more points of order.

Ms Caroline Simons: In the words that I spoke earlier in relation to the charter I have made its position very clear. There has been an amount of legal concern about the fact that this charter will have primacy over our Constitution in circumstances where we have seen very eminent jurists being very critical of the work of the European Court of Justice in the area of human rights in recent years. Where there is any room for ambiguity there is concern. We would be very concerned that either a subsidiarity court would be established, which has been suggested by Mr. Roman Herzog, to decide exactly what matters can be decided—–

Deputy Joe Costello: Chairman, we have had that already.

Ms Caroline Simons: —–or that a codex could be set up, or certainly at the Irish level we would have some kind of constitutional filter to make our own decisions on these kinds of issues.

Deputy Joe Costello: On a point of order.

Chairman: Deputy Costello, I have other members signalling. I will allow one final comment from people who are signalling and then conclude this discussion. We have made any progress we are going to make.

Deputy Timmy Dooley: Does Mr. Ganley and Libertas stand over the statement that the Lisbon treaty could lead to the detention of three-year-old children and the statement that it could also lead to the introduction of the death penalty in Ireland? I ask him to answer “Yes” or “No”.

Deputy Lucinda Creighton: I point out that the idea of a constitutional filter is something the committee has delved into in some detail. To my mind, and from the point of view of the legal experts who have come before the committee, a constitutional filter is a matter for our domestic Constitution, for amendment of the Constitution. It has nothing to do with the Lisbon treaty and it is very misleading to suggest that it might. I refer to the wild statements made by other organisations and Libertas during the Lisbon treaty campaign. Mr. Ganley in many of his publications and media appearances referred to Gerard Hogan, the constitutional lawyer as casting doubt over some of the provisions. He has been before the committee and has absolutely ruled out of hand the type of assertions such as the detention of three-year-old children. Can we now at least agree that if people chose to vote “Yes” to Lisbon back in June and if there is another referendum and they choose to vote “Yes” to it on that occasion, it will not lead to a kind of Chitty Chitty Bang Bang scenario with a child catcher going out chasing innocent children down the streets of the member states of the European Union? We must get some perspective.

Deputy Thomas Byrne: Libertas made this claim during the referendum and it has demonstrated here today that it does not understand the documents it is reading. It refers to the charter when in fact it should refer to the European Convention on Human Rights. Its members do not understand the provision and the people will draw their own conclusions as to the claims they make. I ask the same question as Deputy Dooley as to whether Libertas stands over the claims it has made.

Deputy Joe Costello: I asked the question originally. There seems to be a mass of contradictions and misrepresentations and scare-mongering in Libertas’s approach. I instanced a specific one which Mr. Ganley avoided answering for a considerable time and then passed it on to Ms Simons who went on in a rigmarole to answer a different question entirely. I am asking the question again. There is no doubt about the fact it was said because Mr. Ganley stated it on television during the Lisbon treaty campaign. Where did he get the information that three year old Irish children would be forcibly detained – those were the words he used – if the Lisbon treaty was passed? This is in the context of a referendum where people are entitled to be given accurate information on a vote to change the Constitution. We need accurate information.

Chairman: Thank you, Deputy. We all understand that.

Mr. Declan Ganley: To all of you I would say the following: Points we made during this debate with respect to, for example, the possibility of the re-introduction of a provision for the death penalty by member states during a time of war emphasise that negative rights came as part of the charter even though it also contained some very good things. Issues with respect to human rights and ethics should be very much subject to subsidiarity. Those are decisions that should be made at the most appropriate level possible, which I believe is at least the member state level.
[Whereas CFSP should be made at the higher levels? Odd]

Deputy Joe Costello: Chairman, it looks like we will not get the answer to the question.

Chairman: Deputy, please allow Mr. Ganley to finish.

Mr. Declan Ganley: I did not attend the sub-committee today to re-run the Lisbon treaty debate. It seems that the “Yes” side – the minority, those that lost this debate – refuse to accept the will of the majority.

Deputy Joe Costello: Chairman, we asked a simple question.

Chairman: Deputy, will you let Mr. Ganley finish off?

Mr. Declan Ganley: They are seeking to re-run the tape and have the debate all over again. We are not going to play that game because the decision has been made. Even though you do not like it, that is just too bad. It is tough. You lost. Get over it.

Deputy Timmy Dooley: It is important to understand the fundamentals which you are proposing.

Mr. Declan Ganley: You need to understand the fundamentals of democracy which is that the Irish people said, “No”.

Deputy Timmy Dooley: I went before the people for election. Did you?

Mr Declan Ganley: This question on the treaty went before the people who made their decision.

Deputy Timmy Dooley: You have been found out today.

Chairman: Deputy Dooley, Deputy Costello, please. We have been here since 10 a.m. We have had a fruitful discussion. Everybody had an opportunity—–

Deputy Timmy Dooley: No, we have had nothing of the sort. Mr. Ganley—–

Chairman: Deputy Dooley, allow me to finish. We have had a fruitful discussion in that everyone who wanted to speak has had the opportunity to do so. I have not stopped anyone on a point they have made. I have done what I can to protect the speakers in allowing them to make their points. As Chairman, I am not responsible for the questions members ask or the answers they receive. It is my job to deliver the terms of reference and to deliver orderly meetings. I will have my rulings obeyed or I will stop this meeting.

Deputy Joe Costello: I have a point of order.

Chairman: Deputy, I will hear your point of order when I finish. Many people have signalled and I have allowed everybody to speak. Mr. Ganley will have the final allocation to respond. If anyone has a point of order, I will hear it, as I have done previously. After that this part of our meeting will be complete. One guest has been waiting since 11.30 a.m. to see us, and we have two more modules of work this afternoon. I will now hear Deputy Costello’s point of order.

Deputy Joe Costello: My point of order is that we have been on this issue for the past three quarters of an hour. You, as Chairman, have a responsibility to ensure when a question is asked that the answer is in some way at least relevant to the question put. You have not exercised that responsibility as Chairman.

The question could not be simpler. Where in the treaty is the statement that three-year-olds would be forcibly detained if it were passed? If I cannot put the question properly, perhaps the Chairman would and demand a straight answer so that we do not go on for ever.

Chairman: I remind you, Deputy Costello, that in the discussions held on how the sub-committee would operate, I made it clear that my role as Chairman for this part of the meeting would be to run the meeting efficiently, to ensure all points of order were heard and everyone who wished to speak would be allowed to speak, which was agreed by the sub-committee including you. Where I will get into wielding the terms of reference differently will be in the report.

Mr. Ganley, the question on the detention of three-year-olds has been asked several times.

Deputy Michael McGrath: I have a point of order. We should give Mr. Ganley a final opportunity to say whether he stands over that assertion on the detention of three-year-olds? If he does not, that is fine; if he does, he should please say so.

Mr. Declan Ganley: You should check the tape because you have misquoted me for a start. We have said everything we have to say on this.

Deputy Joe Costello: What about the question on three-year-olds?

Mr. Declan Ganley: We are all grown-ups here. This is a game that the sub-committee is playing.

Deputy Joe Costello: You are turning it into a game.

Deputy Timmy Dooley: It is very important.

Chairman: Excuse me, Deputy Costello and Mr. Ganley, this is not a game.

Mr. Declan Ganley: It seems like it is.

Chairman: Mr. Ganley, I have done everything I can to allow you to finish.

Deputy Michael McGrath: Detaining three-year-old children is not a game.

Chairman: The workings of this Oireachtas sub-committee are not a game either. This is a meeting of the Parliament. We should execute this meeting with dignity and allow other people to speak.

Mr. Ganley, the points my colleagues are putting to you are fair. They have a mandate. As Chairman, I must make it clear again that this is not a game. As Mr. Ganley has acknowledged, this is a very serious matter for the future of the country and we are endeavouring to put questions to him about it. I ask him to reflect on the use of the word “game”. As he sees, we are trying to do our business carefully and seriously today.

Mr. Declan Ganley: I have given my answer and said everything I have to say on the subject. I have nothing further to add.

I will get back to the issue in hand – where we are going from here and, the question for the sub-committee, Ireland’s future in the European Union. Are we summing up?

Chairman: Yes.

Mr. Declan Ganley: Ireland’s place, as I said—–


Chairman: Excuse me. I said when Mr. Ganley was responding that if he had any points he had not made which he wanted to make, I would let him do so. I did offer that to him.

Deputy Beverley Flynn: No other party which has come before the sub-committee has been able to sum up. We ask the questions we want and get answers.

Chairman: What I did say to Mr. Ganley was that if there were any answers he had not yet provided, I would give him one minute in which to do so and that then we would conclude.

Deputy Joe Costello: We should do it now and get it over with.

Chairman: The Deputy may have noticed that he has been doing his best to do so and I have been doing my best to chair the meeting.

Deputy Joe Costello: I have been doing my best to get an answer.

Chairman: Mr. Ganley has one minute in which to respond to questions that have not been answered.

Mr. Declan Ganley: Members should look up the definition of a minor; therein lies part of the answer.

Let us come back to the issue for the sub-committee, where we are going from here. I take this seriously. I beg members not to make the mistake of recommending a re-run of the referendum. Why? Because it would be lost. It does not matter what newspapers state about polls on a particular day. It would be lost and it would be lost for a multitude of reasons which would just compound the issues that resulted in the “No” vote on the last occasion. They should not do it, because there would be a “No” vote and that would be a bigger issue for everybody to deal with than the opportunity we now have. Let us not have another referendum. Another referendum with a “No” vote would probably provoke the collapse of the Government, or at least some senior figures within it. [Although we’d then get an election, all parties would run on a pro-EU ticket, most likely Europe Yes or No would be the options and…] It would not do anything to further the opportunity we now have, which is to defend this message and take it to the European Union. We should give all of Europe’s citizens the opportunity, which they want according to polls across Europe, to have their say on this issue.

Let us not be mediocre. Let us not be servile in any way. Let us go and defend with vigour the sovereign decision that the majority of the Irish people made and let us use it as a catalyst to build a better and stronger European Union and keep Ireland at the heart of it. That is the opportunity we have. In my own very small way I would like to help in any way I can.

Deputy Timmy Dooley: If Mr. Ganley answered the questions, he might help us in that regard.

Chairman: I have given everybody the opportunity to put his or her questions. I thank Mr. Ganley for coming to participate in our committee meeting.

Sitting suspended at 12.55 p.m and resumed at 1.30 p.m.

[And with that they stepped into the afternoon. Everyone clear now – No? How very unsurprising.]


1. D. J. P. O'Kane - November 21, 2008

So maybe Ganley is just a silly fantasist, then?


2. WorldbyStorm - November 21, 2008

I wouldn’t describe him as such, no.


3. kvetch - November 24, 2008

Let me give a specific example. In villages close to my home in east Galway bogs are being closed as a result of EU directives; the same thing is happening in parts of County Mayo. My mother is from Achill Island and I think the same thing is happening nearby. People are being told they cannot go out and cut turf on the bogs where generations before them have done that, drawing home the winter fuel. Instead people must buy imported oil and burn that. I am told that if they continue to cut turf on those bogs it has been intimated that it will affect their REPS payments. I do not know if that is true

Blahblahblah. I recall McGuirk, Waghorne & Co. back in the day advocating scarping the CAP and turning of the Irish farming countryside into a themepark. I would have thought that Ms. Creighton, who clearly is up for blood having been burnt by a certain rat, could recount these and other strange opinions of the “Libertas” crowd for the benefit of the Irish public 😉


4. WorldbyStorm - November 24, 2008

That’s a very good point kvetch… it certainly works both ways… so, why hasn’t she?


5. Paddy Matthews - November 24, 2008

I remember mentioning on here the bogs issue as one that affected votes in the rural area I’m familiar with in the aftermath of the referendum result. The wingnuts have a cheek exploiting it, though.

Constantin Gurdjieff, another one of the “Libertas” crowd, has an interesting perspective on the future for rural Ireland.

Some highlights:

“In the context of the dual-patterned development, it is important for the future of tourism and recreational services to ensure consumers’ access to the land is made available by agricultural withdrawals. This will require:

a. Establishment of post-CAP tax incentives for farmers to convert land from agricultural production into recreational use, subject to free public access, and compliance with environmental and safety regulations promoting the return of land to its natural state.

b. Abandonment of all population maintenance and investment-shifting policies in rural areas.

c. A unified system of private permits for recreational activities, with proceeds ring-fenced to support maintenance and improvements to the natural facilities supporting these activities.

If Ireland were to pursue its organic growth processes in line with those experienced during the Celtic Tiger years, the changes from rural to urban areas necessitated by the need for sustained growth will lead to a continued separation of rural areas from urban and extra-urban zones. The result will be a transformation of Ireland into
a high growth and high-density island with three or four core locations of economic and social activity, which will support a set of large recreational zones similar to the state and federal parks in the US. This process will coincide with continued reduction in economic diversification of the peripheral rural locations, to the point of
rural areas emerging as publicly accessible forestry and parklands with developed recreational infrastructure.”

Shorter Gurdjieff: Rural Ireland should be transformed into a gigantic grouse moor, to which Declan Ganley, squire of Moyne Park, should be able to invite over le Vicomte or assorted US defence contractors for a spot of p(h)easant shooting.


6. For the Chairman the war is over… for now. « The Cedar Lounge Revolution - October 8, 2009

[…] could renegotiate the Treaty, who appeared bullish at the Oireachtas sub-committee on Europe in November of that year, had a continued existence into 2009 and the European Elections. Not to quite the […]


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