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Dáil Éireann debate -
Wednesday, 3 Jun 1992

Vol. 420 No. 6

European Union Treaty: Statements.

At the outset, I should like to make it perfectly clear that the Government will be going ahead with the referendum here on 18 June on the European Union Treaty. This we are obliged to do in the proper discharge of our international responsibilities and the provision contained in Article R that all member states will have the Treaty ratified in accordance with their respective constitutional requirements and will deposit the instrument of ratification with the Government of Italy.

The Treaty provides that it shall come into force on 1 January 1993 provided that all the instruments of ratification are deposited.

The Government deeply regret the decision of the Danish people in yesterday's referendum to reject the European Union Treaty. As the House will be aware, this result was on the basis of a very narrow margin, by less than 50,000 votes out of a total electorate of 3.9 million people. The situation created by this result is, of course, a Danish problem in the first instance, and I understand the Danish Government are meeting today to assess the position.

The predictable negative reactions in Danish economic and financial circles are already in evidence, with heavy activity on the Danish stock market, where shares have fallen, the value of bonds has declined and the value of the Danish Kroner has also fallen. I am told also that there have been increases in interest rates and that there is also selling of investment funds out of the Danish market. These are but the immediate first-round effects of the Danish decision.

It is clear from the repercussions of the Danish decision that a "No" vote in Ireland does not mean that nothing changes. A "No" vote does have serious economic consequences, even for a more highly developed economy than ours as the Danish decision has shown. Our essential national interests have not changed overnight because of the Danish result. Our case for a "Yes" vote is as strong today and as compelling as it ever was.

The unprecedented situation created by this result now requires urgent consultations at EC level, in which this country will fully participate. Already this morning the European Commission assessed the situation, and President Delors issued a statement at lunch-time today. In this statement, the Commission notes that, while respecting the democratic will of the Danish people, the Commission reaffirms the vital importance of the European Union Treaty, and that this Treaty represents and indispensable qualitative step to enable the community to confront the challenges at world level and discharge its responsibilities.

The consequnce of the Danish "No" vote, the Commission notes, is not only for the Community but also for Denmark and its people. I would draw the attention of the House particularly to the Commission's hope that the other member states will proceed with their own ratification procedures within the deadlines provided for.

EC Foreign Ministers will meet in emergency session in Oslo tomorrow. Our Minister for Foreign Affairs, Mr. David Andrews, will be attending this meeting. We will, of course, ensure the House and the people at large will be fully informed on the outcome of this meeting.

It would not, of course, be appropriate for me to comment or speculate on the reason for the Danish result. Their economy and their concerns are different from ours. The reasons for a "Yes" vote in our case are clearly in evidence, with the overwhelming endorsement given by this House and the Seanad recently, as well as by the full spectrum of economic and commercial interests including employers, trade unions and farming bodies. The Irish Farmers' Association, the Federation of Irish Employers, the Confederation of Irish Industry, the Irish Congress of Trade Unions, the Irish Creamery Milk Suppliers Association and other organisations have all indicated their support for a "Yes" vote.

While these are speaking as representative bodies and urging a "Yes" vote, they are even more vitally speaking for those they represent, as people and as individuals. Do those who advocate a "No" vote here tell us how we would cope with the sort of pressures which have hit Denmark today? Could we as an even smaller and less wealthy economy withstand the outflow of investment funds which would follow? Could our employers, farmers and trade union members bear the significantly higher interest rates which, as the Danish experience is showing, are a consequence of staying outside the process of European integration? Could we really bear the still higher unemployment which would inevitably follow those higher interest rates and the more difficult climate for investment?

We have the extraordinary position that those who argue most strongly for Irish sovereignty are now arguing that because another country in the Community takes a certain line we, in full exercise of that sovereignty, should also take that line: that argument just does not stand up. Danish interests are not Irish interests; Irish concerns are not Danish concerns. The two issues are totally separate.

But what is not separate and distinct is the issue of European integration.

I cannot emphasise sufficiently that a resounding "Yes" will be important here to enhance our standing in Europe and strengthen our position in EC negotiating fora. The European Union Treaty, and our full participation in it, will provide major benefits for us, such as a boost to economic growth, more jobs, narrowing of disparities in living standards, improvements in workers' and women's rights, protection of the environment, as well as strengthening the Community's its role as a core of stability in Europe and its role as a force for peace, justice and the alleviation of hunger throughout the world.

In fact, this is a point which is all too often overlooked in the continuing debate on Maastricht. The European Community was established to end war in Europe and bring peace among the nations there, which had twice in a generation devastated the continent and the larger world outside it. This was to be achieved by trading together and working together. That is the process Europe has followed consistently since the Rome Treaty was signed more than 30 years ago now.

But developments over that period have shown the need for a union which is more than just a trading bloc with some added provisions for co-operation in political matters. The Danish vote has not changed the need for European integration or the objectives agreed by the member states of the Community at Maastricht. We still need not only to strengthen the bonds that bind the nations of the Community together and so make the conflicts of the past absolutely unthinkable; it is necessary to ensure the peace of Europe in the world and to guarantee its people the stability and comparative prosperity they have enjoyed over the period of the Community's existence.

To anyone in this House, who doubts the value of the Community as it has developed and is developing, I would ask: why do you think the countries of Eastern Europe are queuing up to join? Why do you think the Community has the capacity to help them with aid and technical advice and trade? And why have some of the most advanced and sophisticated countries in Europe, outside the Community, applied formally to join, not the organisation as it exists, but the Union that will exist after Maastricht?

The Commission has also indicated that it will not support any change in the Treaty. Clearly our partners are not going to abandon the Treaty and its aims which took over two years to negotiate and involved the Heads of State and Government of every Community State.

The other member states are not going to abandon those aims. France and Germany in a joint statement this morning have made that clear. Spain has made a similar declaration and the Portuguese Presidency has also spoken in a similar vein.

Things have changed for Denmark. They have not changed for Ireland. Our case for approval in the forthcoming referendum is that we should continue to be part of the future development and integration of Europe. That intention has not changed because of the Danish decision. The Danes have to decide where they wish to go now. We have seen the immediate economic repercussions of their vote in the financial markets, the resulting uncertainty, and it is clear what a "No" vote could mean for us here in Ireland. Our commitment is to Europe, European development and European integration — for the benefit of the Irish people of all trades, professions and persuasions.

I would ask all the main parties opposite who support ratification to join the Government, the social partners and all the other mainsteam organisations outside this House in strengthening our resolve and redoubling our efforts to secure a decisive "Yes" vote on 18 June. The attention of Europe will be on us. This is not a time to climb back on the fence, to pause for second thoughts, to indulge in knee jerk reactions or to attempt to seek a renegotiation of this or that aspect of the Treaty that we may not like, which will certainly be refused. It is a time for the greatest possible national unity and consensus at a critical moment not only for the future of Ireland. We should not forget that we do not know what Denmark will do and that the other member states can proceed with a Treaty without us.

As things stand now, we are dealing with a rapidly evolving situation. The Commission met this morning: the Council will meet tomorrow: the Presidency will be keeping the whole picture under review. I would like to assure the House that I will arrange for it to be informed of developments from time to time as necessary.

I believe that at this stage Ireland must go ahead with the referendum on 18 June. Any global renegotiation of the Maastricht Treaty, which would be encouraged if Ireland at this stage, having already passed the legislation and set the date for a referendum, were to attempt to postpone that referendum, would be liable to be to Ireland's disadvantage and indeed to the disadvantage of all those countries that are likely to benefit from the Cohesion Fund to be established under the Maastricht Treaty in its present form. A renegotiated Treaty would not be likely to include a Cohesion Fund or at least to include it in a much attenuated form.

The countries which are likely to be net contributors to the fund — Denmark would have been if they had ratified the Treaty and will be if they eventually decide to do so — are likely to use any global renegotiation that might result from an Irish decision today to defer our referendum to reduce or eliminate their contributions to the European Community. In short, in the general renegotiation which might result from a mistaken decision on our part in this House there is a risk that the Cohesion Fund might disappear. It is therefore in Ireland's interest to ensure there is no general renegotiation of the Maastricht Treaty, although Ireland should avail of any minor changes that may have to be made if eventually Denmark decide finally before the ultimate deadline not to take part. We could make the case at that stage for using minor alteration processes to remove or amend Protocol 17 to the Treaty which we so mistakenly inserted in the first place. I contend that it is not a foregone conclusion at this stage that Denmark will finally opt out. If Ireland decide — it is true to say that the eyes of Europe are actually on this House today — to go ahead with the referendum, I believe there is still a strong possibility the Maastricht Treaty in its present form can be saved. It is still possible for Denmark to change its mind after an appropriate period of delay for reconsideration and consultation. Article R of Title VIII of the Treaty says that the coming into effect of the Treaty can be deferred "until the first day of the month following the deposit of the instrument of ratification" by the last of the states so doing. That date need not be 1 January 1993 and may be subsequent to it. The extra time gives the Community an opportunity to meet the Danish concerns in other separate ways without changing the Maastricht Treaty in its present form.

Clearly that is the course of action that European leaders should now attempt to achieve — to meet Danish concerns separately by other means without disturbing the Maastricht Treaty and thereby create the conditions in which the Maastricht Treaty can in its present form be put again to the Danish people with ancillary arrangements in place to meet such concerns as may have been expressed by the Danish electorate in the meantime.

It is very clear that Europe is now plainly confused and there is no greater evidence of this than President Mitterrand's decision which in my opinion is most ill advised and a publicity seeking decision. It is important that a country like Ireland should show that they can keep their head while the rest are losing theirs.

If the Danish concerns cannot be met and the Treaty has to be modified for Eleven members only, it would be much easier in my view to get the Eleven members to agree to go ahead with something close to the existing Maastricht Treaty, which contains provisions like the Cohesion Fund, that we so much need, if at that stage we have already ratified the Maastricht Treaty. If we postpone the referendum, we display a lack of commitment to the Maastricht Treaty and that gives all other countries which want to unscramble parts of the Treaty which might be to our advantage but to their disadvantage the excuse to do so saying that "the Irish are not sure about the Treaty anyway".

We should not falter in our resolve on this occasion. Indeed if we ratify the Maastricht Treaty on 18 June and it applies to only Eleven members, and not to Denmark, any new treaty for the Eleven could be a relatively simply document, simply agreeing for the Eleven what had previously been agreed for the Twelve to be ratified by the Eleven. A simple two to three line treaty would suffice. If, however, that course is not adopted and an attempt is made to renegotiate all the treaties of the European Community from the ground up for the Eleven members, and excluding Denmark, a whole series of negotiations encompassing all the content of the Treaty of Rome, all the content of the European Coal and Steel Treaty, all the content of the Single Act and the content of the individual accession Treaties, would have to be undertaken. If we had to do that all over again, and this would be the only course open to us if the Maastricht Treaty were not preserved intact by the Eleven member states, renegotiation de novo would be so incredibly complex that it might never be completed. Issues of contention between member states that have for long been dormant would be re-opened in any such global renegotiation. As a country that benefits by a factor of five or six over what we contribute, such a global renegotiation would not be in our interest. It is vital that in the next seven days European leaders give a clear lead to their people on this issue. There can be no procrastination. There is a real risk of conflicting signals being sent out as has happened in the past 12 hours where one member state announced it was going to hold a referendum while another announced it was going to defer the Committe Stage of the Bill to ratify the Maastricht Treaty. These are directly conflicting signals from two responsible leaders. It is imperative, therefore, that there be a summit meeting of European Community Heads of Government next week to set a clear political course for Europe in advance of the Irish vote on 18 June. The Taoiseach should seek the holding of such a summit next week.

In Brussels on Friday I will be meeting with the Heads of the European Christian Democrats six of whom are prime ministers of their respective countries, half the entire membership and I will ask each of these to arrange for a summit meeting next week.

The constitutional status of the Maastricht Treaty following the Danish vote, and the political intentions of the 11 other member states on the matters covered in that Treaty, must be clarified at the highest political level next week by the European Prime Ministers before the Irish people cast their vote on 18 June. The Irish people must be allowed to decide the political direction they want to take on 18 June on the basis of the fullest information available about the intentions of our other partner countries. It would be most unwise to attempt to take that decision without such a high level political declaration from our partners.

It is fair to say at this stage, without any undue use of the phase "I told you so", that it was never very clear why the Government were in such a rush to have the referendum on 18 June, only 16 days after the Danish referendum. They chose a date which made it impossible for us to provide any contingency plan in the event of Danish rejection of the Treaty. Fine Gael in particular warned the Government at the time that their haste could endanger the process. I am sorry to have been proven right on this occasion. Clearly the Government had no contingency plan for what happened yesterday. On 19 May I asked the Taoiseach in this House what would happen so far as our referendum was concerned if the Danes voted "no". He said the campaign would continue and we would run our own show. I asked him to clarify the exact status of the Maastricht Treaty but he did not give a precise answer. The Taoiseach should have had an answer to that question on that occasion rather than having the odd situation where the Government had to issue two separate statements yesterday evening about this matter, neither of which conveyed the degree of certainty one would expect. It is important that certainty be maintained.

If we are to get a "Yes" vote the Government will have to change the whole tenor of their campaign. The Irish electorate, no more than the Danish electorate, will not be browbeaten by exaggerations or threats. There is a very good and strong case for voting "Yes" which does not have to rely either on bribes or threats. We must make the case calmly and in a responsible manner. There is a highly idealistic case for voting "Yes" which has an appeal to young people who want to see the environment preserved and who should be advised that it is only by Europe acting together that the environment can be preserved. There is a strong case for young people voting "Yes" to preserve peace because no generation more than the young have an interest in peace. Peace can only be preserved if Europe acts together to preserve it. There is a strong case for voting "Yes" for those who are concerned to have employment. We can only create good remunerative jobs if we are able to sell our goods and we will only have markets to sell our goods if we have a strong open European market available to us. Those calm and rational arguments must be put before the Irish people. There is no need to put these arguments in a context which relies on threats, for example, people's livelihoods will be taken away if they vote "No", etc.

Recent developments demand a much more concerted, considered and far less complacent approach by those of us who support the Maastricht process towards European union. There should be an immediate meeting of all the political party leaders who support the Maastricht Treaty — the Taoiseach, Deputy Spring, Deputy O'Malley and myself — to prepare a statement signed by all four of us calmly setting out the case without exaggeration or threats in favour of Ireland's endorsement of the Maastricht Treaty on 18 June. I formally issue that invitation to my colleagues.

The ratification of the Maastricht Treaty would be greatly helped by an open-ended debate in this House in which every Member who had something to say was free to say it. As an enthusiastic supporter of the Maastricht Treaty I would welcome the opportunity of listening to and answering the arguments put forward by those Members of this House who are opposed to the Maastricht Treaty. I have nothing to fear and I do not believe any sincere supporter of the Maastricht Treaty has anything to fear from an open-ended debate taking as long as necessary to allow every Member of this House to speak for as long as they need to on this subject. We should have such a debate; we should let everybody speak. This debate should be televised so that the people can see that those who support the Maastricht Treaty have nothing to fear from such a debate and do not wish to have that debate canalised into short statements of 20 minutes during which, in the case of my party, only one of 55 Members is allowed to speak.

The reasons for Denmark's rejection of the Maastricht Treaty do not apply to Ireland. After Maastricht, Denmark was to become a net contributor to the European Community. However, after Maastricht Ireland will continue to receive five or six times as much as it contributes. Denmark voted "No" out of fear of the overwhelming influence of Germany. It is fair to say that this is a concern in the minds of people in other countries also. However, the reality is — I say this to Danish people and Irish people who may be concerned about the same phenomenon — that it will be much easier to curb the undue influence of any one state, be it Germany or some other country, and to channel German energies into constructive paths if Germany is part of a strong united Europe than it will be if it is part of a loose confederation of European states which are favoured by the opponents of the Maastricht Treaty. People who say they are voting "No" because they are afraid of Germany are using a perverse argument. If we want to keep Germany within the European family of nations, behaving as part of a team rather than doing a solo run, we need to keep them on the team. Voting "No" is not the right way to keep them on the team.

Without the Maastricht Treaty the Single Market is also liable to collapse soon. The Single Market is an opportunity for us to solve our unemployment problem. Maastricht will enable Europe to develop common economic, taxation, currency, environmental and consumer policies. However, without Maastricht, countries will be free to pursue their own separate policies on each of these issues. A single barrier free market could not survive if individual states were still free, as they would be if Maastricht was ultimately rejected, to pursue conflicting economic, taxation, currency, environmental or consumer policies. Unless the Single Market is underpinned by the Maastricht Treaty it will disappear within a few years; the Single Market will not survive without the underpinning provided by the Maastricht Treaty. Nobody in this House should argue that it is possible to take the Single Market but reject the Maastricht Treaty. Without the Maastricht Treaty, ultimately there will be no Single Market.

I hope no Deputy will seek to use the decision of the Danish people to roll backwards on Ireland's commitment to a united, democratic and inter-dependent Europe. The world is a dangerous place and ethnic conflicts abound in Europe. It is only if Europe can act with one will, that peace can be secured in this dangerous world. Ireland should be part of that process, helping to shape that will and a structure of peace in Europe and not sitting on the sidelines letting other people make decisions for us, the consequences of which we will have to accept one way or the other.

The European Single Market, the Structural Funds and the Cohesion Funds, give the two parts of Ireland which have been divided since the Ulster plantation the opportunity to work together on the basis of mutual interdependence without the supremacy of one tradition over another in a form and forum which has never been possible before. In any previous attempt to bring the two parts of Ireland closer together it was always a question of one side having the better over the other. In the context of a European Single Market it is possible for the two parts of Ireland to become dependent on one another through closer economic and commercial links without any one side claiming that they have got the better of the other.

For this House the opportunity that the Maastricht Treaty gives us to build a structure of interdependence between the two traditions, North and South, is the most cogent argument of all for voting "yes" on 18 June. It gives us an opportunity to resolve conflicts that generations of Irish people before us, going back to Daniel O'Connell, have been unable to resolve. We in this generation, by building on the Maastricht Treaty, have an opportunity to resolve that historic division on this island in a fashion that imposes the will of no tradition on that of another. We should not flinch in taking that opportunity on behalf not just of past generations but of the generations that will succeed us in this House.

Having listened carefully to the Taoiseach's address to this House I am utterly and truly disappointed if not amazed. This important parliamentary debate was sought to elicit information and clarification on the serious situation facing the European Community in the wake of yesterday's decision. Unfortunately, the Taoiseach in his address, which does no credit to him, the Government or his advisers, in no way attempts to tackle the serious problem we are facing. Apart from a reference to a message of deep regret by the Government to the people of Denmark, akin to thanking the parish priest for the loan of a hall for a meeting, there is no other attempt at analysing the serious position we are in. The Taoiseach's speech could have been delivered without that paragraph even if the outcome of yesterday's referendum had been different, and that is very regrettable.

The Treaty on European Union has been rejected by the Danish people. As a matter of European law, that means that the Treaty cannot form part of European law. There are two reasons for this, and it is important that they be spelled out as succinctly as possible: (1) Article R. 2 of Title VII of the Treaty on European Union explicitly states that the Treaty cannot enter into force until it has been ratified by all the member states and (2) even more fundamental than that, the Treaty on European Union is itself an amendment of the Treaty of Rome. Article 236 of the Treaty of Rome provides that any amendment to the Treaty must involve (a) consultation with the European Parliament, (b) an Intergovernmental conference, and (c) ratification by all the member states in accordance with their own constitutional requirements. It is also important to point out that this Treaty was rejected by the Danish people in accordance with the provisions of their Constitution. Had the Danish people voted in favour, they would have been delegating powers vested in the Danish authorities to international authorities — in this case the European Community.

The Danish referendum was carried out in accordance with Article 20 of the Danish Constitution. In effect the Danish Government were seeking the permission of the Danish people to ratify the Treaty on European Union. If the people had said "yes" the Government would have been in a position to ratify, but that ratification would not have necessitated any change in the Danish Constitution. As it is, it is quite clear from the Danish Constitution, a copy of which I can make available to any Deputy who wishes to see it, that the instrument of ratification has been rejected by the Danish people.

When the Danish Constitution, the Treaty on European Union and the Treaty of Rome, are examined together, the picture becomes clear — as of this moment, the Treaty on European Union is dead. The only thing that can change that is for the Danish people to change their minds. There is no precedent in Danish constitutional law for a proposal rejected by the people being resubmitted without the gap of a long period of time. On one previous occasion, the Danish people voted to overturn their previous rejection of a proposal to lower the voting age but the gap between the two referenda in that case was nine years.

The situation that has developed as a consequence of this has been variously described by Government Ministers as a crisis for Denmark and a problem for Europe. It would appear that as far as the Government are concerned there is, however, no problem for Ireland. Nothing could be further from the truth. It ought not to be forgotten that the Danish people were not asked to change their Constitution in order to ratify the Treaty on European Union. Ratification of the Treaty by the people of Ireland will require a change to our Constitution.

What are we being asked to insert in our Constitution? We are being asked, first, to enable the State to ratify a Treaty which has no force in European law as of this moment. Second, we are being asked to give institutions and bodies the power to make decisions and carry out acts which have the force of law in Ireland, even though they too can have no force in European law. This is an absurdity. It would make a nonsense of our Constitution, which has been jealously guarded, by Fianna Fáil more than any other party, for 55 years. No Member of this House who believes in the importance of constitutional democracy can support the notion of writing absurdities into the Constitution.

From the perspective of those of us who believe in the European ideal, who want to campaign for closer integration within Europe, this absurdity becomes an obscenity. Since the decision of the Danish people became clear, we have heard Eurocrats and Irish politicans dismissing Denmark as some insignificant little country out on the edge of Europe, whose decisions really do not matter. How is it possible for any Irish politician, to argue, with a straight face, that small countries do not matter and that the only thing that is important is the European ideal? What is the European ideal if it is incapable of respecting and accommodating the needs and aspirations of small countries on the periphery? How can we in Ireland, above all, argue that the Danish people should be ignored and that no account should be taken of the decision they have made? It does not matter whether we agree with their decision or not, what matters is that if Europe means anything, it means that they have the right to take that decision and to have it respected.

I have already argued in public statements and otherwise that a "yes" vote in Ireland is in the interests of the people of Ireland, but I cannot argue that it is in the interests of the Irish people to insert a spurious commitment into our Constitution, and, as things stand at present, that is what it is. I believe also that the result in Denmark is likely to have significant effects on the psychology of public opinion here in Ireland. In other words, if the referendum on 18 June is proceeded with, its outcome is far less predictable than it was two days ago.

I find it extraordinary that any Government should be so irresponsible as to seek to press ahead with a referendum to insert a non-existent Treaty into our Constitution, and that they should run the risk of miscalculating and underestimating the attitude of the people to that proposal.

It seems clear already that some of the requirements of our Constitution, particularly those relating to collective Cabinet responsibility, may well have been ignored completely in the development of the infamous Protocol attached to the Treaty. Are the Government now going to compound that lack of proper constitutional regard by pressing ahead with a constitutional proposal, which will almost certainly require subsequent change, as the situation in the European Community develops?

I fully understand the wish of the Government that an opportunity should be given to the Irish people to express a commitment to European Union and to the many social and economic aspects of the Treaty, but this is the wrong way to do it. In addition, the Government are passing up a very considerable opportunity here. The opportunity now exists to re-open discussion on the whole question of travel and information. Is it possible that the Government are in fact afraid of re-opening those issues in Europe?

There is a solution, and it is one that is readily available to the Government, although I have not yet seen any evidence of the Government being even aware of it. Section 92 (1) of the Electoral Act, 1963 states:

The Minister may, in any case in which it appears to him that there is an emergency or special difficulty, by order make such adaptation or modification of any statute, or order or regulation relating to the registration of Dáil electors or electors at local elections, or the conduct of Dáil elections, presidential elections, local elections or referenda, as may in his opinion be necessary to enable it to have effect subject to the provisions of this Act.

The section in question was amended subsequently in 1977 to include European elections. Further technical changes were made in 1985 to deal with the situation that arose when British voters resident in Ireland become eligible to vote in Dáil elections here.

However, the provision of the section that relate to referenda and the powers of the Minister in relation to referenda have remained unchanged since 1963. What this means in essence is that it is open to the Minister for the Environment, if he decided that this involved either an emergency or a special difficulty, to postpone the date of this referendum to a date which would allow for appropriate consideration of all of these developments. What that means, in turn, is that we would then have the opportunity to incorporate any and all Treaty changes arising from the Danish rejection and the negotiations and discussions which must follow that rejection. It would also mean that it would be possible for us to deal properly with the issues of travel and information at the same time as we deal with the issues of European Union. There is no reason why anyone should interpret such a decision here as a rejection of the principles of European Union. In fact, it should not be interpreted as anything other than a desire on the part of the Irish people for clarity and an insistence that when they come to vote on European Union they will be doing so in full possession of all the facts, which are sadly missing at the present time.

The Labour Party have supported, and will continue to support, Europeans economic and social integration. We believe in a Europe in which the rights of every citizen are equal and in which the quality of life of every citizen is capable of being enhanced through the fair distribution of increased prosperity. Despite difficulties and challenges, the Treaty on European Union has the potential to deliver these benefits across Europe. But it must be underpinned by a continuing commitment to the European ideal. If we in Ireland are not prepared to stand up for the right of Denmark to have its voice heard, why then should we expect anyone to stand up for us?

It is quite remarkable that the great brains of Europe forgot to make a contingency plan for the rejection by any single high contracting party to the Treaty in Maastricht. If a simple contingency plan had been prepared we would not be in this great dilemma now facing us. As of now, Maastricht is a political, constitutional, social and economic shambles. We in this Houses should take the opportunity to have a say in the shaping of the architecture of the Europe of the future. The first and rational step is to postpone this referendum until the autumn to enable calm and detailed consideration of all the developments.

This House, indeed this country, and the wider European Community, are today faced with an utterly unprecedented situation. The shock waves of the Danish referendum outcome are still reverberating throughout the Community, and the ripples are plainly evident here too.

Long before yesterday the referendum on European Union was a source of some confusion and difficulty here at home. Not only is the issue of European Union — to do with Economic and Monetary Union and Political Union — extremely complex and far-reaching in itself, but we had the added complication of the entanglement of our own abortion controversy and the ill-fated Protocol No. 17, which sought to deal with that issue but which became especially complicated as a result of the judgment in the "X" case.

It is understandable, therefore, from a human point of view if some members of the public around the country, already somewhat bemused, confused and befuddled about the sheer complexities of what they were being asked to vote on come June 18 next, should now simply decide to shut off completely when the added complications of the Danish decision are taken into account and decide to have nothing at all to do with the June 18 referendum. These are human and understandable enough reactions in this enormously complex situation. But our task as politicians is to chart a way out of the uncertainty and the political fog that is undoubtedly enveloping the whole question of European Union, particularly for our own people as they prepare to go to the polls in two weeks time.

What we require therefore is cool, rational, dispassionate and informed debate on the issues now confronting us in relation to the forthcoming referendum and the issue of Euopean Union. It is not a time for rushing self righteously to final judgements. Detailed legal clarification is absolutely essential from the European Commission in Brussels, and indeed further clarification is needed here about the status of the decision facing the electorate on June 18 in light of the decision by the people of Denmark less than 24 hours ago. There is little doubt, on the face of it, under Article 236 of the Treaty of Rome, that any revisions or amendments of that Treaty which the Maastricht Treaty undoubtedly constitutes, requires unanimous endorsement by all the member states of the Community. On the face of it therefore, as some commentators have already alleged, the Maastricht Treaty as signed on 7 February last may appear to have been dealt at least temporarily a fatal blow.

That is something that has to be very carefully considered. As Leader of the Progressive Democrats, and indeed as a member of Government, I am obviously party to a range of legal opinion on the implications of the Danish decision which is going to require further careful consideration. For instance, we need to fully explore and reach definitive conclusion about the extent to which there is a possibility for the European Treaty to remain in place. The news from Denmark this morning that interest rates there have gone up and their stock market has fallen has already highlighted the negative repercussions for that country of the vote yesterday.

Undoubtedly economic developments of this kind will lead to much soul searching and reflection on yesterday's decision. Therefore the whole question of what the Danes will do next in consideration of their position within the European Community, and in contemplation of the proposed European Union Treaty, must be given very careful consideration by them.

We are faced with a situation which, as I said at the outset, is only unprecedented but is also evolving by the hour and by the day. For this reason we can only expect to achieve more clarity regarding the tantalising legal questions now overhanging the Maastricht Treaty after some further issues are fully teased out. Notwithstanding the legal uncertainties which have to be clarified definitively, it is entirely appropriate that the legislative arrangements and other plans for the June 18 referendum should stand. Some people are speaking of the possibility of cancelling or postponing the referendum now fixed for 18 June by order made by the Minister for the Environment. Article 46.2 of the Constitution provides as follows:

Every proposal for an amendment of this constitution shall be initiated in Dáil Éireann as a Bill, and shall upon having been passed or deemed to have been passed by both Houses of the Oireachtas, be submitted by referendum to the decision of the people in accordance with the law for the time being in force relating to the Referendum.

Clearly there is no obvious constitutional basis for withdrawing the Bill from the people once it has been through the Oireachtas; nor is the Eleventh Amendment on June 18 confined to the Maastricht Treaty. It also authorises the State to ratify the European Patents Convention. It does not direct the State to ratify the Maastricht Treaty. It merely authorises such a step. It also provides that no acts done or measures taken in necessary consequence of such ratification should be invalid under our Constitution.

There is a danger that the pre-existing consensus in favour of the Maastricht Treaty could fall prey to doubts and protest votes. We have to keep a steady nerve in this unwelcome and unprecedented dilemma. We do not want our votes to be futile or redundant. Least of all do we wish that Ireland would send a false or inconclusive message to our European partners. While there may be legal uncertainties at the moment bedeviling European Union, there should be, I contend, absolutely no politicial reservations in the way of Ireland's total commitment to and involvement in the process of creating a closer Union of the Community's member states.

The whole European movement, which started out as an economic system aimed at ending terrible wars in Europe, has now matured over the past 35 years to a political federation seeking to unite all Community citizens under the common name of "European", enjoying rights of free movement as citizens of Europe, along with free movement for goods, services and capital. The ambition of Jacques Delors and other political architects of Maastricht is the creation of nothing less than a United States of Europe. Ireland can gain immeasurably — economically, socially and politically — from that process. The Irish people therefore face a very fundamental choice on June 18 and we must not confuse the politics with the legalities of that position. We Irish people must make our own decisions for ourselves.

We have the right to accept or reject the Maastricht Treaty, but we cannot assume — no more than the Danes can — that the process of European Union and the huge momentum behind it emanating from the founder states of the European Economic Community — notably France, Germany, Italy and the Benelux countries — will simply come to a halt in order to accommodate us. It appears to me that, like the Danes, we have the choice of remaining on or getting off the European train. We do not have the choice of stopping it entirely.

Moreover, we must not confuse the reasons why the Danish people have decided to vote against European Union with Ireland's vital national interests, which overwhelmingly lie in the fullest realisation of economic and monetary union and the greater development of a unifying political process. Nothing that happened in Denmark yesterday detracts in the slightest from the absolute vital national importance for Ireland of our fullest participation in that whole process.

In view of the Danish decision yesterday, it would now appear that the verdict of the Irish people on the whole process of European Union is going to take on a significance previously unimagined, as the eyes of the people in the other eleven EC states focus upon us and the decision we will take. In one sense this is a weighty challenge to confront, but on the other hand it does offer us an opportunity to demonstrate to our fellow Europeans the overwhelming commitment of the Irish people to the whole concept of the European Community. This exciting and pioneering excursion in human optimism, achievement and ambition has undoubtedly been dealt a severe blow by yesterday's decision in Denmark. But the Irish people have the opportunity in our upcoming referendum to reinvigorate the whole European Union process and to give a renewed mandate and endorsement to that exciting project.

I believe too that the people of Ireland should demonstrate concern and consideration for the situation of the Danish people in light of yesterday's decision. Like us, they are one of the smaller member states of the Community and I would very much like to see whatever arrangements are needed being taken in Denmark to ensure that the Danes can maintain their rightful position as full participants in building the European Union. The smaller nations, I believe, have a unique contribution to make to the building of the Community; in underlining its diversity and by developing its capacity for the strong to help the weak. It is all summed up in the cohesion objectives of the European Union Treaty. For that reason, as one of the smaller member states, I believe it is important that we enjoy the solidarity and the shared interest that particularly bind the smaller and more peripheral states within the Community. In that context Denmark and Ireland do have important common objectives.

That, of course, is not to endorse the particular objections that appear to have underpinned yesterday's referendum outcome in Denmark. There, the overwhelming consideration appears to be fears about what the European Union might entail for Danish-German relationships and the outcome would also seem to have been heavily influenced by the current standing of the Danish Government with its own electorate. These issues are not paralleled here in Ireland. Our referendum will provide us with an opportunity as Irish people to make one of the most important and fundamental decisions since the foundation of the State. Notwithstanding the Danish outcome, I am confident there will be a significant majority in favour of the Maastricht Treaty here in Ireland, because it will be clear to the innate good sense of the Irish people that this country should and must, be part of — and indeed provide leadership for — a progressive and outward-looking Europe.

Ireland has gained immeasurably in political, social and economic terms since we joined the European Community in 1973. It would be inconceivable for this country not to want to play a full part in the historic developments now being put into place to build a new Europe — a Europe which will not alone be better able to provide improved living standards for its own people but a Europe that will also be a pole of stability and strength and a force for peace in the new, international political order which is now evolving from the profound changes that have taken place in Eastern Europe and in the former Soviet Republics.

Without question unemployment is the single greatest social and economic domestic problem this country faces at the present time. With over 280,000 unemployed it is right that we question what influence our membership of the European Community has had on these figures. More importantly, it is right that we ask what contribution our membership of the European Community can make in helping to tackle our unemployment problem in the future. In my view, outside the Community the level of unemployment would be even greater than the unacceptably high levels which obtain at present. It is not difficult to see why this is so. Economic growth in Ireland over the past 20 years, helped by significant resource transfers from the Community, has been over one-third higher than the Community average. This has been accompanied by an increase of over 70,000 in the total number of people employed in the economy over that period despite the significant falls in agricultural employment.

The achievements of recent years, which brought our economy back from the brink of economic and social chaos, would not have been possible without the significant support made available by the community. Direct financial transfers from the Community amounted to almost £2 billion last year alone in net terms, or almost 6 per cent of our total national income. For every £1 we contributed to the budget of the community we received £6 in return. In addition, the Single Market Programme, which will remove trade barriers between the member states of the Community and which will be completed by the end of this year, has already attracted significant investment in manufacturing enterprises in Ireland, particularly from countries such as the United States and Japan, to take advantage of the opportunities which the Single Market will provide across Europe. This investment has been an important factor in the more then 55,000 increase in employment achieved in the non-agricultural sector over the past five years.

The process of voluntary European integration has slowly evolved since the end of the Second World War a vision of a new Europe took hold, a Europe which would not be rent again by self-inflicted wounds in the name of a narrow nationalism and associated militarism. The slowly emerging process was brought to a new and more formal plane by the establishment of the European Economic Community under the Treaty of Rome in 1957. Thirty years later the Single European Act of 1987 provided the legal basis for bringing the integration process beyond the sphere of simply economic co-operation towards the ideal of a genuine European Community. As part of that process the richer countries of the Community — and Germany in particular — agreed to a very significant increase in the resources to be transferred to the less developed countries of the Community to help close living standards between different countries and regions. A new and perhaps inelegant, phrase was coined — cohesion — to represent this commitment to closing the gap in living standards between the various regions of the Community.

The commitment was genuine. It involved a doubling in real terms between 1987 and 1992 of the resources to be transferred to the less developed regions to restructure their economic bases in the context of creating a Single Market. Ireland has made good use of these additional resources. Under the reform of the Structural Funds put in place to promote the economic and social cohesion objective of the Single European Act, Ireland has received commitments of over £3 billion to support the structural reform of the economy. This has supported a level of public and private sector expenditure for development purposes that would not otherwise have been possible.

The Community's commitment to the development of less-developed countries such as Ireland is strengthened under the Maastricht Treaty. The role of the Structural Funds as a principal instrument for transferring resources from richer to poor areas of the Community is re-affirmed and greater flexibility has been provided for in using those funds for development purposes — in the area of educational facilities, for example.

For the first time the Treaty provides that the Commission will report every three years on the progress made in achieving economic and social cohesion and will bring forward appropriate proposals where these are needed. This will ensure that the development of the less prosperous areas of the Community remains high on the agenda. In future the formulation as well as the implementation of Community policies and actions must take the social and economic cohesion objective into account, an objective that is given full status under the Articles of the Treaty for the first time. A new cohesion fund is to be established before the end of 1993 which will provide additional resources to support environmental and trans-European transport networks for the first time, together with the Commission's proposals for a two-thirds increase in Structural Funds, which form the Delors II package. The outcome of these proposals should be that Ireland can achieve a doubling of financial transfer commitments under the Structural and Cohesion Funds over the five years to the end of 1997 in the negotiations that will take place over the coming months.

The provisions of the Maastricht Treaty relating to Economic and Monetary Union are those with the greatest long term implications for the business sector in Ireland. The Treaty provides, in three stages, for the achievement of full economic and monetary union by 1999 at the latest and the subsequent replacement of national currencies with a single Community currency. The first stage has already started — from 1 July 1990. It includes the completion of the Single Market programme by end-1992; the removal of controls on capital movements, particularly between member states; and the greater co-ordination of the economic and monetary policies of Community countries. The second stage will start on 1 January 1994 and will involve the more intensive co-ordination of economic and monetary policies. Broad guidelines for both the Community and member states will be laid down by the Council of Ministers and the multilateral basis within the framework of these guidelines. The process will involve certain constraints on the budget deficits of member states and the way in which such deficits can be financed. The first steps in the creation of a European system of central banks will also be taken by the establishment of the European Monetary Institute which will operate to achieve closer co-ordination between the monetary policies of member states.

The third stage will start on 1 January 1999 at the latest. It will involve a European system of central banks consisting of a European Central Bank as an independent body with full responsibility for a single monetary policy for the Community together with the central banks of the member states.

The ECU will become a currency in its own right. The rates between the currencies of the different Community countries in relation to each other and in relation to the ECU will be irrevocably fixed.

Membership of the Community's Economic and Monetary Union at the third stage will be confined to those countries which meet certain economic norms, specified in the Treaty, in relation to price stability, Government budgetary deficits, exchange rate performances, the level of interest rates and Government debt.

From Ireland's point of view full participation in Economic and Monetary Union is a logical objective of our economic policies. Ireland has already one of the most open economies of the Community with imports and exports together equivalent to well over 110 per cent of total national output. By participating fully in the process now leading to Economic and Monetary, and to Political Union, Ireland will send a clear signal of economic stability and discipline to potential investors of both domestic and overseas origin in the Irish economy.

Exchange rate uncertainties will be removed with a resultant downward pressure on interest rates. These developments will greatly facilitate our efforts to increase investment in the manufacturing sector, for example, and the retention of associated employment that would otherwise be lost if we allow any uncertainty to develop in relation to our full commitment to the process of European economic integration now under way.

The eventual emergence of a single currency will remove transaction costs for Irish trade within a Community which at present accounts for three-quarters of our total exports, and two-thirds of our imports. Such transaction costs bear more heavily on the small and medium-sized industries which characterise Irish industry so that their removal will also be relatively more beneficial to Irish industry.

I understand from the latest news bulletins that the Danish Government have decided to seek renegotiation of the Maastricht Treaty. They have indicated they are not sure how successful they will be, nevertheless they have made a decision to seek renegotiation. Much of the horror and surprise expressed by commentators, both journalistic and political, has been tinged with a certain degree of arrogance that the people of Denmark should attempt to refuse the good advice of their Government and all the various sister organisations of the farming community and the business community which supported the Treaty in Denmark, just as they do in Ireland. Obviously, the Danish people took a different view. It is improper for the Taoiseach to dismiss it as a margin of 50,000 votes. The number of people who voted in Denmark against Maastricht was in excess of two million, and it is a denial of their democratic right to reduce that to the point which has been made with regard to the Treaty being held up by 50,000 votes.

The arrogance I spoke of also seems, unfortunately, to be in the Commission of the European Communities, who have issued a statement to the effect that notwithstanding the democratic decision of the Danish people, the Treaty of the European Communities is still valid, etc. The whole tenor of this campaign to date in Ireland — and apparently in Denmark as well — has been to the effect that we have negotiated this deal for you, it is so good we think you should accept it but if you do not accept it, the world is likely to end tomorrow. I am sure there are many people in Ireland who are disappointed that the world was still on its axis this morning, following the rejection by Denmark of the Maastricht Treaty. It is not the end of the world, or the end of Maastricht, or the end of the European Community or the end of European Union. It is certainly a hiccup so far as Germany and France are concerned, who have declared they will go ahead in any event. That shows a certain degree of arrogance that they are prepared to move along regardless of what the people of the other member states may decide. That is echoed, to some extent, by the Taoiseach's speech today in which he said:

Danish interests are not Irish interests; Irish concerns are not Danish concerns.

Perhaps he had some reason for making that statement. It certainly denies the European ideal which we have been treated to here today whereby the European Community was established to end wars, has prevented war and been of such great benefit to the people of Europe and so on. We either cling to the ideals of Europe or we do not. If the concerns of Denmark are not our concerns and our concerns are not the concerns of Denmark, then surely there is an end to the European ideal of the unity of the people of Europe. We have to be concerned about their concerns just as France and Germany have to be concerned about our concerns.

The outcome of the Danish referendum is that the Maastricht Treaty, in its existing form, is a dead letter. The Government now have no realistic or even common-sense alternative but to postpone the Irish referendum scheduled for 18 June. Deputy O'Malley sought to argue——

The Minister for Industry and Commerce, Deputy O'Malley.

Deputy O'Malley, the Minister for Industry and Commerce, sought to argue that there was no obvious constitutional basis for withdrawing the Bill from the people once it had been passed by the Oireachtas. He was careful not to pin his colours to that statement because the section he quoted in the Constitution is not black and white as he seeks to imply. In any event it seems to me that the reference in the Constitution which he quoted leaves it open to this House to amend the legislation in whatever way we see fit. It is wrong to imply in this House that we have no option but to proceed with this referendum at this time. Indeed, to ask the Irish people to vote on a Treaty that cannot now come into effect in its present from is to ask them to engage in empty and meaningless ritual. What the Danish vote has done is to stop the clock on the Maastricht process and provide invaluable time for all the member states to renegotiate the Treaty and address its many shortcomings. It is an opportunity which must not be passed over by this country. For the Taoiseach to suggest this is a crisis for Denmark but not for Ireland or the rest of the Community is like whistling past the graveyard. The British Government have decided to defer consideration by Westminster of their legislation to facilitate ratification. The French President has announced there is to be a referendum in their country later on. They know that the situation has changed utterly. The only people who refuse to acknowledge that we are in a totally new situation are the Fianna Fáil-Progressive Democrat Coalition, apparently, ably supported by Deputy John Bruton and to a limited extent by Deputy Spring.

The fact is that the legislation passed by the Dáil, the Eleventh Amendment of the Constitution Act, provides that the question to be put to the people on 18 June is whether or not they agree that "The State may ratify the Treaty on European Union signed in Maastricht on the 7th day of February 1992, and may become a member of that Union".

Whatever happens, the Treaty signed at Maastricht on 7 February cannot come into operation. That Treaty was signed by the Danish Government and it has certain provisions which relate exclusively to Denmark and clearly these can no longer have any validity. It has also been made clear that the Treaty can only come into effect when all 12 member states ratify. An official document, Target 92, No. 5-1992, produced by the Commission last month confirmed this. It stated:

What happens if a Member State fails to ratify the Treaty? Does life go on as if Maastricht had never happened or will there be a renegotiation?

The new Treaty cannot come into effect until all 12 member countries have ratified it. It is all or nothing, with no question of a Member State opting out or choosing which parts of European Union to apply. The Treaty itself represents a complex balance of interests agreed after exhaustive negotiation, and has to be accepted as a package.

If there were delays in ratification by one or more Member States, then the date of implementation would have to be postponed, just as the Single European Act was delayed by six months in 1987.

The position as set out in Article R of the Treaty is as follows:

1. This Treaty shall be ratified by the High Contracting Parties in accordance with their respective constitutional requirements. The instruments of ratification shall be deposited with the Government of the Italian Republic.

2. This Treaty shall enter into force on 1 January 1993, provided that all of the instruments of ratification have been deposited, or, failing that, on the first day of the month following the deposit of the instrument or ratification by the last signatory State to take this step.

The Treaty refers to the "High Contracting Parties". It does not say "some of the High Contracting Parties", a "majority of the High Contracting Parties" or even "ten or 11 of the High Contracting Parties". It is all the High Contracting Parties or nothing. As one of the High Contracting Parties has now declined to ratify, the Treaty cannot come into effect because the requirements for ratification under Article R cannot be met.

If the Government go ahead with the referendum as scheduled on 18 June, as stated by the Taoiseach today, it is clear that a subsequent referendum will have to be held at a later stage to ratify the revised Maastricht Treaty. Apart from any other considerations, holding a referendum on 18 June to ratify a treaty which is essentially null and void would be a criminal waste of public money. A referendum is never a cheap exercise, and usually costs in excess of £1 million pounds. I do not believe that the taxpayer should be asked to bear the cost of a referendum which has no relevance. There is also the matter of the public expenditure on the Government's pro-Maastricht propaganda campaign. We are told that some £600,000 has already been spent on literature, but much of this material has been rendered irrelevant by the Danish decision.

Whatever now happens, there will have to be a meeting of the Heads of Government to review the position in the aftermath of the Danish decision. It means that the content of the Treaty, including the notorious Protocol 17, is back on the table. The Government claimed that they were unable to secure the deletion of Protocol 17 because the other Governments did not want to renegotiate the Treaty. They no longer have this fig leaf to shelter behind.

I do not believe that the Government ever seriously addressed the matter of the deletion of the Protocol because they did not want the Protocol deleted in the first place. Whatever about the right to travel, I do not believe that it was ever the Taoiseach's plan to deal with the right of access to information in any meaningful way. The Taoiseach's aim was to get Maastricht out of the way as soon as possible and to then introduce a package of measures which might have provided for a right to travel and some token rights to information but which would have been primarily aimed at overturning that part of the Supreme Court judgment which established a limited right to abortion here.

The Taoiseach's bluff has now been called. He refused again in the Dáil today to clarify precisely what he intended to do, and because of his refusal to clarify that we must assume that he is bluffing. He must now declare his hand and say exactly what he plans in regard to any legislative or constitutional measures he intends to take in regard to the abortion issue. There is no doubt that there is a need for legalised abortion here in certain circumstances and it is time this House faced up to it.

The whole handling of the Maastricht Treaty by the Irish Government has been characterised by bungling and incompetence. They got a bad deal in the first place; they negotiated the clandestine insertion of a Protocol which seriously diminished the rights of Irish women; they insisted on planning the referendum for 18 June when logic suggested a referendum in the autumn after the Danish vote by which time the Government would have had to declare their hand on travel and information.

What the Dáil should now be debating is the negotiating position the Irish Government should now adopt in the inevitable revision of Maastricht. The deletion of Protocol 17 should clearly be a priority, but such issues as European defence, democracy within the Community and the criteria for the achievement of monetary union must all also be addressed.

We all owe a debt of gratitude to the Danish people. They have shown a welcome capacity to think for themselves and have taken a courageous decision in the face of fairly intensive browbeating by the leaders of some of the larger EC states. The threatening statements issued by Chancellor Kohl and President Mitterrand about the smaller countries being left behind if they did not agree to every detail of their grand design were more appropriate to some self-styled European emperors than the leaders of countries which are supposed to be our partners in the Community. The Taoiseach's comments in this House two weeks ago echoing those threats by Chancellor Kohl and President Mitterrand, and which were widely reported in the Danish media, will have added to the level of resentment there and quite probably fuelled the "No" vote.

What the Danish poll has demonstrated is that there is a substantial body of opinion in mainland Europe which is greatly concerned at the shortcomings of the Maastrict Treaty. Only the Irish and Danish people have Constitutions which provide for direct consultation with the people through referenda, but I suspect that if other countries also went to the polls the Danish result would not be unique. It also shows that suggestions made by the Taoiseach that there was no opposition in other European countries was very wide of the mark. It is entirely possible to be a good European, to be positive about the concept of European Union, but opposed to the Maastricht Treaty.

While opinion polls have shown a substantial majority in Ireland in favour of the Maastricht Treaty, I believe that the picture would have changed as the debate progressed and I believe that the Danish result will encourage Irish people to be much more questioning and sceptical.

Developments are taking place which are adding to the public concern. The most recent was the disclosure that this Government have now formally applied for observer status of the Western European Union. This is clearly the first step towards the involvement of this country in a European military alliance. At the same time the Taoiseach tells us that the Maastricht Treaty does not have any military implications for Ireland at this time. One of the most extraordinary aspects of this major decision was that the Taoiseach chose to announce it at a briefing for political correspondence rather than in the Dáil. The Taoiseach was questioned intensively by me and other Deputies in the Dáil on Tuesday of last week but failed to make any mention of this decision.

The decision to apply for observer status of the Western European Union is one of the most significant shifts in national policy for several decades and the Dáil should have been consulted in advance. The Western European Union is made up of nine members of NATO and a central feature of its strategy is the possession of nuclear weapons. The country is now throwing in its lot with those who not only possess nuclear weapons, but are prepared to threaten their use to protect their interests. The activities of the Western European Union are not confined to Europe. It is a strategic military machine, prepared to intervene anywhere in the world where the strategic interest of any of the western powers are perceived to be under threat. The new Eurocorps of almost 40,000 French and German troops, which was announced last week by President Mitterrand and Chancellor Kohl, is clearly intended to provide the basis of the military muscle for the Western European Union.

Under the Maastricht agreement the European Community is effectively subcontracting defence activities to the Western European Union pending a further consideration of defence policy in 1996. Although the Taoiseach has assured us that nothing will be done without a further referendum if the Maastricht Treaty goes ahead in its present form, we are then likely to be told in 1996 that we have no alternative, that if we do not agree to a specific defence policy we will become the outcasts of Europe and that the other member states will go ahead without us.

Our honourable tradition of non-membership of military alliances and our proud record of prompting the non-proliferation treaty should be the basis for Irish policy on European defence. We must now use the opportunity provided by the Danish referendum to insist on a re-think on European defence, instead of being carried along on the coat-tails of NATO, while pretending not to be involved.

Another factor which adds to the case for deferment of the referendum is the current postal dispute, which, I hope, will be resolved quite soon. We have warned on several occasions that if the current postal dispute is allowed to continue the whole validity of the Maastricht referendum could well be in doubt. Under the 1963 Electoral Act the returning officers are required to send to each elector a polling card which "shall be sent in sufficient time as to be delivered in the ordinary course of post... to arrive not later than the third day before polling". There is no organisation in the country other than An Post providing a postal service and there is none which would have the resources and expertise necessary to ensure delivery of the polling cards to each elector.

There is now hope, in my view, that the dispute may end at the weekend, but even if that happens there is no adequate guarantee that An Post will be able to deliver the polling cards in the time specified in the legislation. There is a huge backlog of mail to be cleared, especially in the Dublin area, which may take up to a week to clear. That would bring us into the week of the proposed referendum and it seems very unlikely that the massive number of polling cards involved could be delivered in the time available.

Surely for that reason if no other, we should postpone the referendum. But I believe that the arguments in relation to the validity of the Maastricht Treaty and the fact that it is more than likely that a re-negotiation will be open in view of the Danish decision make it completely idiotic for the Irish Government to insist on proceeding with the referendum on 18 June.

I should like to deal with one aspect of a very serious accusation made by the preceding speaker in relation to Ireland's observer status at the Western European Union.

The simple truth of the matter is that no decision has been made in that regard. I refer Deputy Proinsias De Rossa to the White Paper on the Treaty on European Union at page 106, 8.31. It is important to note that attendance as an observer would not require Ireland to become a member of the Western European Union, to accede to the Brussels Treaty establishing the Western European Union, to take up any obligations under the Brussels Treaty, or to subscribe to policy positions or platforms adopted by the Western European Union. Ireland would not become a party to the Western European Union alliance nor undertake any mutual defence commitments or military obligations under the Western European Union Treaty. That is a matter of fact, it is not a matter of fiction—

It is a matter of subterfuge.

——and it is an outrageous suggestion to imply otherwise. On the substantive and substantial conributions made during the debate, I join with other speakers in expressing my regret that the Danish people decided, by a very narrow margin, not to agree to the ratification by Denmark of the European Union Treaty. I also express my regret that the Minister for Foreign Affairs, Mr. Uffe Ellemann-Jensen, a good friend of this country, has found himself in that position. That is the decision of the Danish people, democratically expressed and the rest of the Community must respect it. However, the decision has profound consequences for Denmark itself, which must now consider how best to adopt itself to a situation in which other member states are engaged in their ratification procedures as the Treaty requires.

Tomorrow in Oslo I shall have an opportunity to hear the views of my Danish colleague on how best Denmark feels the Community should respond to the decision of the Danish people. I shall also have an opportunity to hear the views of my colleagues from other member states and, of course, I shall be able to put forward Ireland's views. The Government have carefully considered the situation as far as Ireland is concerned. We have agreed, as the Taoiseach, Deputy John Bruton and the Minister for Industry and Commerce, Deputy O'Malley, have indicated, that we must go ahead with a referendum on 18 June.

Quite apart from the fact that the Oireachtas has passed the necessary legislation, there are important considerations as to why we must go ahead without delay: First, we are committed to ratify the European Union Treaty. We should not back away from this commitment even though Denmark has voted "No". In voting in the referendum on 18 June we will exercise our own sovereignty and take our own decision from the point of view of Ireland's best interests. Second, there will be consideration in due course by the other 11 about how to deal with the situation created by the Danish decision. In these discussions Ireland's position will be greatly enhanced if we are committed to ratification. Third, the other member states will be going ahead with ratification. Germany and France have announced their intention to complete their ratification process even though Denmark has decided not to ratify. France has decided to hold a referendum — this option was always available to the French Government as part of the French constitutional process and partners were aware that it might be exercised.

I know that Britain has now decided to postpone consideration of its European Communities Bill. However, where the people do not have to be consulted it is relatively easy to vary the parliamentary timetable, and Britain is committed to ratification of the Treaty. As a final consideration I would mention the statement made by the EC Commission this morning. In that statement President Delors repeated the Commission's commitment to the European Union Treaty and called on the other 11 member states to complete the ratification process. It was interesting that he drew attention to the need for the Community to continue with the main points of its current agenda. Of major importance are his proposals for increased financing, which he specifically mentioned, thus underlining the continued importance of the Delors II plan.

In the course of their statements, Deputies have mentioned many concerns and interests arising in the context of the Danish decision. I will bear these in mind when I meet my colleagues in Oslo tomorrow. We will be meeting them at a formal EC Council of Ministers meeting. I welcome the decision of the Portuguese Presidency to call the meeting. The issues to be discussed are urgent and of the widest importance and interest throughout the Community.

In our discussions in this House and, indeed, in the discussions in Oslo tomorrow we should not, of course, lose sight of the ultimate objective. That has to be to get a Treaty, which it took two years to negotiate, into force. That Treaty contains much to strengthen European unity. It provides for greater co-operation in foreign and security policies at a time when events on our own continent require such co-operation. It contains a timetable for economic and monetary union, which is essential if we are to safeguard the achievements of the Single Market. It contains commitments on cohesion which are vital to the development of this country.

The Danish decision does cause concerns for the rest of the Community — not least regret that Denmark is unable to join in a process which will lead to an enlarged Community to include countries which are close to Denmark in their world view. Ireland wants to be able to find a solution to the concerns which have been raised from a position of strength as a member state which has ratified the Treaty. I will make that point to my colleagues in Oslo tomorrow. Ireland will not shy away from the ratification process because another member state has decided, for its own reasons, not to proceed. We exercise our sovereignty as an independent nation by taking our own decisions on the basis of a judgment of what is in our own best interests. The Government are satisfied that our best interests lie in proceeding with ratification and I will go to Oslo tomorrow and take that position on behalf of Ireland.

I have just been informed of discussions which have taken place in Brussels this afternoon where at official level the member states took stock of the situation. They made clear their determination to go ahead with ratification. This initial reaction by partners, which will be developed at political level tomorrow, makes clear that the mood in member states, while it is one of regret at the Danish decision, is to complete the ratification process.

Two years of hard work have been invested in the European Union Treaty. It contains many compromises which involved member states abandoning points of great importance in order to achieve a treaty which all of the participants felt they could have approved in their parliaments and by their people. Ireland will not turn away from this achievement and tomorrow I expect to find that other partners will take the same approach.

I listened with great interest to the very weighty contributions made by various speakers. In particular, I thought the speech by Deputy John Bruton was very interesting and extremely valuable. The Portuguese presidency have said that they will not support the Danish request for renegotiation. I will quote from the communique from the Portuguse Presidency:

What I can tell you from the contacts I have had so far is that there is a strong unanimity in the sense that the Eleven should go ahead without any hesitation to fulfil the objective that they have set out in Maastricht. The second feeling is that there is no room for renegotiating the Treaty.

This is the feeling of the presidency after some contacts but, of course formal decisions will be taken and announced at the meeting to which I refer. I have been in contact with my Danish and other colleagues in the EC because we want the decisions we take tomorrow to be made clear and understood by everyone inside and outside the Community.