I am pleased to have this opportunity to move the Second Reading by Seanad Éireann of the Twenty-fourth Amendment of the Constitution Bill. As the House will be aware, the purpose of the Bill is to provide for the changes in the Con stitution necessary to permit the State to ratify the Treaty of Nice. The content of the treaty was agreed in Nice by Heads of State or Government at the conclusion of the intergovernmental conference in December last year. The treaty was signed by the Foreign Ministers of the 15 member states on 26 February this year. The purpose of the Treaty of Nice is to complete the process of internal reform required to prepare the Union for a significant expansion of its membership. The treaty thereby completes the programme of institutional renewal and updating which began with the Treaty of Amsterdam.
As Senators will be aware, a number of major issues, sometimes referred to by the, perhaps, misleading term of "Amsterdam left-overs", were left unresolved in Amsterdam with the understanding that they would be taken up again prior to enlargement. At the Cologne European Council in June 1999, the Heads of State or Government decided that an Intergovernmental Conference would convene in early 2000 and would address the size and composition of the Commission, the weighting of votes in the Council, the extension of qualified majority voting and changes in other European Union institutions necessitated by enlargement. It was subsequently agreed at the European Council in Santa Maria de Feira in Portugal in June 2000 to extend the agenda to include the issue of enhanced co-operation.
The Intergovernmental Conference began work in February 2000, operating under the political direction of Ministers for Foreign Affairs. Proceeding under the Portuguese Presidency, and subsequently the French Presidency, the Intergovernmental Conference concluded with agreement at the Nice European Council last December. With a view to allowing enlargement of the Union to proceed on schedule, the Governments of the member states have indicated their intention to complete the process of ratification by the end of 2002.
The Treaty of Nice is the latest in a series of treaties which have created and shaped the Union since the founding Treaty of Rome in 1957. These have included the Single European Act in 1986, the Treaty on European Union in 1992 and the Amsterdam treaty in 1997.
Since becoming a member of the then European Economic Community almost three decades ago, Ireland has played its full part in the development and evolution of what is now the European Union. From the outset we showed a level of support for the European project and a readiness to identify with the Union as our Union, which distinguished us from most other new members states. This partly reflected the material benefits associated with membership, but it went much further than that.
The European Union has allowed us to make our distinctive voice heard more widely in the international arena. With our strong tradition in human rights, conflict prevention, support for the United Nations and a proactive approach to co- operation with developing countries, full participation in the European Union has provided a larger stage on which to operate and one from which, working with our partners, we have sought to promote a positive and principled approach to international relations.
On a more general level, Irish people have responded enthusiastically to the reaffirmation, through our active participation in the Union, of our rightful place in the European mainstream. In what may appear paradoxical but is entirely consistent with the purposes of the Union, our membership has coincided with a remarkable strengthening of national self-confidence. With renewed faith in our European vocation has come a tremendous growth in interest and support for what is best and most distinctive in our own traditions. I have to recall that this is completely at variance with the predictions of persistent critics of our European involvement who, on each occasion when the question of our role in Europe has been put to the Irish people, have predicted fatal results. In this, as in so many other areas, these same critics have both misunderstood what the Union is about and failed to appreciate the resilience and resourcefulness of their fellow Irish citizens.
Apart from the economic benefits of an enlarged Union, to which I will revert shortly, one of the most exciting aspects of the forthcoming enlargement of the Union is the opportunity it offers to re-establish social and cultural links with the peoples of central and eastern Europe and of the other applicant countries. I am sure that the Irish people will eagerly seize this challenge, as so many of our young people and business men and women are doing already.
It is perhaps not widely remembered that many of these countries came to independence in the same period as ourselves and faced many of the same challenges of political and economic survival in those early inter-war years. Even then, as small countries we shared a mutual recognition of the importance of the rule of law in international relations and of the need for a stable international framework. It was Latvia, for example, now an applicant for EU membership, which formally proposed the admission of Ireland to the League of Nations. Will Ireland turn its back on Latvia and the other candidate countries now that we are in a position to help them?
Many of these countries went on to pay a terrible price for the failure to sustain a legitimate international order. Over a period of half a century they have known occupation, human suffering of unimaginable proportions, dictatorship and the massive denial of human rights and fundamental freedoms. Having at last recovered their freedom and regained an independent voice in international affairs, these countries have made clear the absolute priority they attach to securing admission to the European Union.
For those of us already in the Union, this is both a remarkable testament and a great responsibility. This responsibility falls nowhere more heavily than on us in Ireland. As the only member state which will have a referendum on this issue, we have an opportunity to deliver an emphatic message in support of the emerging democracies and of the re-integration of our European continent. Such a message from the people of Ireland would resound powerfully and be remembered throughout the Union, but most especially in the applicant states.
By contrast, if the Irish people were to say "No" to enlargement, it is difficult to imagine anything more damaging to our bilateral relations with these countries. I do not believe that the Irish people, rightly known for their open and generous response to those less fortunate than themselves, will want to deny to the Czechs, the Poles or the people of the Baltic States or other applicant countries, the opportunity which we were given in 1973.
While it may not be the intention, it is important to realise that this would be the consequence of a victory for the "No" vote in the referendum. It is important, therefore, that voters turn out in large numbers so that the decision taken truly reflects the instincts and wishes of the people of this country. I am confident, when exercising their responsibility, that the people will not be distracted by scaremongering and misinformation, but will extend the hand of friendship, as has been done to us at important stages in our development.
Membership of the Union is not a panacea. As we have seen here, and as we have explained to the many candidate countries who look at Ireland as a model for their path to development, the benefits of membership can only be realised in the context of a sound domestic policy framework. However, effectively pursued, membership can and does offer real opportunities to accelerate the pace of economic and social development. In the agriculture sector, for example, Ireland received some £24 billion from the Common Agricultural Policy in the period from 1973 to 2000. This has brought, as we all know, a major transformation of living standards in rural areas, in the process helping farm income as a percentage of average industrial income to rise from 60% in 1985 to 77% in 2000. Each year between 1994 and 1999 an average of over 250,000 Irish students, teachers, trainees, apprentices and unemployed people benefited directly from the support for their courses from the European Social Fund.
The Union has also contributed hugely to the improvement in our infrastructure. Since 1989, Ireland has been allocated over £12 billion in Structural and Cohesion Funds, including about £3 billion for the period 2000-06. The fact that by the end of the decade it is likely that we will no longer be a significant recipient of Structural Funds simply indicates that we have used the funds, as intended, to bring our economy close to the EU average. Viewed in this light, our eventual status as a net contributor, which, it is important to stress, is a consequence of our level of development and not of enlargement, is a badge of achievement and a source of justifiable pride.
By far the greatest economic gain to this country from EU membership is not the direct transfer of funds, but the opportunity it offers to take advantage of the Single Market which currently comprises some 350 million consumers. Enlargement, with the prospect of over 100 million new customers, offers significant opportunities in this regard. Trade between the Union and the candidate countries of central and eastern Europe is already growing at 20% per year and is set to grow further. Irish trade with the 12 countries in negotiation for membership has grown fivefold since 1993. Irish companies are also beginning to take advantage of the investment opportunities offered by the candidate countries. In Poland alone, total investment by Irish industry already exceeds £1 billion.
This is the background against which the Irish people will be asked to give their agreement to the constitutional changes required to permit ratification of the Treaty of Nice. In case there is any doubt on the matter, I emphasise that the reason we are putting this matter to a referendum is that the Government has been advised in the clearest terms by the Attorney General that constitutional change is required. The approach followed, including the precise wording of the amendment, mirrors precisely the line taken, with all-party agreement, in respect of the Treaty of Amsterdam. In particular, having previously cited identified options and discretions included in the Amsterdam Treaty, it is necessary again to list the specific options and discretions provided for in the Treaty of Nice. Account must also be taken of the move to qualified majority voting in some thirty areas. Quite apart form these specified provisions, it is in overall terms clearly desirable to minimise uncertainty as to the legal status of important treaties of this kind.
The terms of the treaty have been explained in a factual and easy to read White Paper. To assist in disseminating information about the treaty, a copy of the summary of the White Paper is being distributed to every household in the State. The provision of the White Paper free of charge and the distribution of a summary to every household go beyond the steps taken in the previous referendum and are an indication of the Government's commitment to maximum public information. Copies of the Treaty of Nice are available free of charge from my Department and copies have also been sent to public libraries and citizen information centres. The treaty, in English and Irish language versions, can also be consulted on my Department's website.
In addition, the Referendum Commission has been established and will operate on exactly the same basis as in the 1998 referendum. While the commission will itself decide how it wishes to proceed, I expect that it will again undertake a publicity and information programme as in the past.
I am confident that any open-minded citizen who examines the treaty will conclude that it represents a good deal for the Union and a good deal for Ireland. It will allow the institutions of an enlarged Union to function effectively, while at the same time protecting the essential balances which are the distinctive hallmark of the Union. For example, in relation to the the weighting of votes, as envisaged at Amsterdam, the weighting of those countries giving up a Commissioner has been increased. Under the new arrangements, Ireland will have a weight two and a half times greater than we would expect on the basis of population. Our weight will be the same as that of Finland and Denmark, two countries with a larger population than ours. The simple fact is that under the treaty, Ireland's share of the total vote will move from approximately 3% in a Union of 15 to 2% in a Union of 27. Germany's share will be reduced from 11% to 8%. The same applies to the UK, France and Italy. It is nonsensical to suggest that this represents some radical overthrow of established balances within the Union.
Similarly, the requirement that any decisions taken have the support of at least 62% of the Union's population, given that the equivalent figure in the past has, on occasions, been over 70%, hardly marks a major shift of power, especially when there is a simultaneous requirement that all QMV votes have the support of at least a majority of states. The position of the smaller states is therefore fully protected. Similarly, Ireland's representation in the European Parliament will be twice what it would be by reference to our percentage of the population. With the exception of the special case of Luxembourg, we will have the highest seat to population ratio of any existing member state.
As regards the Commission, Ireland will be on exactly the same footing as every other member state, irrespective of size. From the appointment of the next Commission in 2005, the five large member states will give up their second Commissioner. Thereafter, all member states will be entitled to nominate one Commissioner. When the Union eventually reaches 27, a system of rotation will be introduced. Key safeguards secured at Nice are that all decisions relating to the reduced Commission will be taken by unanimity and rotation will be on the basis of strict equality of member states. A number of measures aimed at strengthening the rule of the Commission President, while maintaining the body's essential collegiality, were also agreed.
As a country with an obvious interest in an effectively functioning Union, it made sound sense for Ireland to support a significant extension of the scope of qualified majority voting. Ireland has nothing to fear from this change and, indeed, it would have gone further if agreement had proved possible. It is not in our interests or that of other smaller member states that a single state can block necessary decisions on trade negotiations, economic co-operation with third coun tries or the appointment of the President of the Commission. Experience shows that these levers are far more likely to be deployed by an individual large state.
While facilitating QMV in many areas, we were insistent that unanimity remained the appropriate basis for decision-making in the taxation area. I want to dispel the notion that no real threat faced us in this area and that the eventual outcome was somehow preordained. I can only state that this bears no resemblance to the reality which we faced before and during Nice. Even as the European Council was under way, revised proposals, including a Presidency proposal to move to QMV for corporation and other taxes within five years, were in circulation. It was thanks to the strong position taken by the Taoiseach, working with a group of like-minded countries, that this threat was averted.
It is not the case that there will not be agreement on tax issues in the future. We have agreed VAT directives, customs directives and directives relating to a range of other areas. We are simply making the point that decisions on such matters should be taken on the basis of unanimity; we are not stating that they should not be taken at all.
The treaty also provides for some updating of the provisions with regard to enhanced co-operation, including limiting the veto and allowing groups of eight member states or more to constitute themselves as a group. It has been alleged that this paves the way for a two-speed Europe. This emphatically is not the case, not least because of the numerous safeguards which Ireland and other like-minded states secured for its operation. These include excluding the Single Market – a large part, over 80%, of total Union activity – and all matters pertaining to security and defence from its scope. The role of the Commission in ensuring the overall coherence of the Union has been strengthened, and, as a guarantee of openness, the right of any member state to join in establishing a group has been enshrined in the treaty. There are existing examples of enhanced co-operation and, in this regard, no one has suggested that the operation of the euro or the Schengen arrangements will bring about a two-speed Europe.
By common consent, including among the candidate countries, the overall result is to preclude the emergence of a single inner core or twin-track Union. Far more likely, assuming proposals emerge which satisfy the strict criteria now in place, is a number of groups with variable and overlapping membership. The reality is that enhanced co-operation, in the terms agreed at Nice, is essentially a last resort mechanism, available to the Union to facilitate continuing co-operation between member states in circumstances where the interests of the Union so require. Our experience of EMU, for example, itself a form of enhanced co-operation, suggests that to foreclose this option would be imprudent and short-sighted.
Against the background of the historic process of enlargement in which it is engaged, the European Union is continuing to seek ways of playing a greater role for peace, stability and security in Europe. Ireland has a strong interest in maintaining a stable, inclusive security environment and it is essential for Ireland to be centrally involved in shaping future changes in the direction that we would wish to see them take. Ireland pursues this objective not only through the Common Foreign Policy of the European Union, but also through the primary route of the United Nations – which is adverted to in the treaties of the European Union – as well as through other international organisations.
The Treaty of Nice has made only limited changes to the existing provisions for the Common Foreign and Security Policy which are intended to make it more coherent, effective and visible. These limited changes, which I will now describe, concern the deletion of references to the Western European Union and providing a treaty basis for the political and security committee in Brussels.
At the time of the Amsterdam Treaty, it was envisaged that the Western European Union would play a key role, acting on behalf of the EU, in the area of crisis management and conflict prevention. However, given the development of the Union's capabilities in this area, the role of the Western European Union has diminished. The deletion of the clauses concerning the Western European Union can, therefore, be seen in the light of the evolution of the European Security and Defence Policy and of a desire to update the treaty.
Reflecting the fact that the European Union will now implement the decisions it may take in this area, the Treaty of Nice also provides for the replacement of the existing political committee, which comprised representatives from capitals, with a political and security committee, based in Brussels, and operating on instructions from the respective Governments. The new committee will assume functions relating to the conduct of the Common Foreign and Security Policy. As part of its responsibilities, the political and security committee may exercise, under the direction of the Council, the political control and strategic direction of crisis management operations.
On Committee Stage in the Lower House, a debate took place on an amendment tabled by Deputy Gormley which sought to suggest that Ireland should opt out and that it should sign a protocol of some description. The example of the Danes' insistence on signing a protocol in relation to the Treaty of Amsterdam was put forward to support this argument. The reasons the Danes sought such a protocol is that they want to pursue their security interests exclusively through NATO and they do not want to be involved in the shaping of security and defence policy within the European Union. Denmark is a member of NATO and it wishes to proceed exclusively within the framework offered by that organisation.
Ireland has helped to develop and has taken a full part in the European Union. When opponents of the Union speak in relation to this aspect of the matter under discussion – which is not central to the Treaty of Nice but is really a re-run of previous arguments relating to the Treaty of Amsterdam upon which the Irish people have already spoken – it is important to point out that the development of competence in this area for the European Union relates to the Petersberg Tasks. That is the framework within which we are seeking to develop a European security and defence policy. The Petersberg Tasks specifically relate to crisis management and conflict prevention. We must move beyond the paradigm – which is really a confirmation of the time warp in which those who oppose the treaty by putting forward the type of arguments I mentioned find themselves – that the European Union is trying to become like NATO or is attempting to become a military superpower capable of competing with the United States.
The Cold War era is over. The Treaties of Amsterdam and Nice were introduced because progressive forces in the emerging democracies of Europe, for whom no one had much to say when they were under Soviet control and influence in the Cold War era, want to be part of the European Union. Those governments are speaking for their people and they are enthusiastic about enlargement. To facilitate that enlargement, other countries will pursue a parliamentary process while we, in compliance with our constitutional law and jurisprudence, will pursue the referendum process.
Is anyone seriously suggesting that those who claim to hold the high moral ground in terms of their views on neutrality can praise the extraordinary and excellent contribution Ireland has made, through its UN involvement, in far off fields in the Lebanon, East Timor and elsewhere while at the same time stating that we should not be involved in crisis management, humanitarian operations and conflict prevention in Europe? Are these people stating that we should not be involved with former adversaries, applicant countries and others, that are working in Kosovo at present? Are they saying that the efforts being made to try to rebuild the Balkans region should be abandoned and matters should be allowed to progress in the manner in which they progressed in 1914 or 1940? Do they believe that Ireland should take all the benefits of membership while not meeting its various responsibilities?
Given that the security and defence policy is being shaped in line with Ireland's foreign policy traditions, the competence or capability that is being constructed by the European Union is precisely designed to prevent crises and conflicts reaching the stage that was reached in the former Yugoslavia. There is a need to rebuild civil society and democratic structures and become involved in new policing arrangements in areas of crisis and conflict. There will be a military requirement to ensure that ethnic cleansing, which made its first reappearance since the Second World War in Europe in the 1990s, is not allowed to proceed. Do I understand it that people want Ireland to state that, as a member of the European Union, it does not want to make a contribution in this regard?
The idea that Ireland would not meet its responsibilities repels me – the idea that there are people in the Houses of the Oireachtas who, for some reason, seem to suggest that it is fine to be involved in peacekeeping in the Lebanon and the Middle East but that we should not become involved in peacekeeping in Europe. What is the logic of that position? On what basis are we pursuing our national interests when it is clear the European Union will work to be involved in conflict prevention and humanitarian tasks? We were all appalled when hundreds of thousands of refugees left Kosovo after their homes were burnt by a dictator. They had to go to another impoverished country, Macedonia, which took on that humanitarian responsibility single-handedly and without much help from the developed world or the more enlightened democracies. Macedonia met its responsibilities and it did not have many financial or other resources to do so. Will we say we are not prepared to contribute? That is not what Irish people believe.
There is a vociferous minority who continue with a line of argument which is irrelevant since the Cold War ended and the Berlin Wall came down. The proof of its irrelevance is that the people who suffered under those regimes are saying they want to become part of the European Union. They do not have a problem with the European Union developing a competence in these areas to assist these people so they do not suffer the ethnic atrocities we have seen in past decades in those parts of Europe. Ireland is mature and intelligent enough to recognise that the responsibilities we have there are of the same moral quality as those in East Timor, Lebanon or anywhere else.
The claim that we are departing from our foreign policy tradition overlooks the fact that we have negotiated a position where we will participate on a case by case basis, subject to a sovereign decision of the Government in each case which will require the approval of both Houses of the Oireachtas under the Defence Acts. Those Acts state that we will not get involved in such operations unless there is a prior UN mandate. Where is the beef in that argument? The people who pursue this line of argument in attacking and undermining our national interest by trying to get people to vote "No" to this treaty have sought at every stage since we became members of the European Union to opt out of the integration of the European economy and European institutions. However, we can do more in common than we can do by ourselves in the global world in which we live. Do we believe we will have a greater voice in the international arena by, ostrich-like, opting out of these obligations rather than shaping policy in a way which is consistent with our foreign policy traditions?
There is in all the European Union treaties, including Article 17 of this treaty, a recognition that the UN has a primary role in the maintenance of international peace and security. Those in the "No" campaign seem to be blissfully unaware or else they are mischievously omitting to mention that the UN peacekeeping operation is moving on. It is important in terms of the security of people who are working under the UN mandate that they have proper capability and professional preparation. We do not want to see the debacles which happened in West Timor and Liberia, for example, where UN troops were taken hostage by some of the factions involved because of the lack of preparation and logistical and up-to-date equipment required to do a job that is more dangerous and difficult than in the past. It is important to be part of this operation even from the point of view of protecting our soldiers. We must ensure we are knowledgeable and that our people are well equipped and trained under the auspices of the EU as it develops its defence and security policy into the future.
Are the people who say "No" also blissfully unaware that the UN is increasingly calling on regional organisations to take on these responsibilities on behalf of the UN with a mandate from the UN? That is another trend in global peacekeeping. They continue to trot out nonsense about a European army. Deputy Joe Higgins suggested that if it looks like an elephant, it is an elephant. However, it is not if one has bad eyesight. Is anyone seriously suggesting that Kofi Annan is in charge of a UN army of 147,500 soldiers from 88 countries? That is the standby system available if the UN requires to choose from those people who are available or qualified to take on any mission in the world. There is no such thing as a standing UN army.
By the same logic, without language losing its meaning, there is no European army. A capability is being determined by the European Union as to what is available in the event of a crisis or a humanitarian situation which must be addressed. We do not want to find ourselves in the position in which we found ourselves when, as people streamed out of Kosovo, some of the richest countries in the world did not have the capability or the preparations made to assist impoverished neighbours, such as Macedonia, Albania and others, to deal with that humanitarian crisis. The "No" people would want the television cameras to go there but they would not want anyone there who could help. They would want us to have bleeding hearts but not to help these people. They would want to take the high moral ground and talk about it, which they are good at. Deputy Gormley spoke for a half an hour on Committee Stage yesterday and I got three minutes to respond. That is what happens when one is a member of a big party. The smaller the party, the more time it gets.
I respect different voices and opinions on this matter. However, if we are to have a debate, it should be a real debate about real issues, not a manifestation of a doomsday scenario which has formed the basis of these arguments for long enough. I question the credibility of people who say we should listen to that line of argument. When a former esteemed Member of the other House, Mr. Garland, spoke on the Maastricht Treaty, he said emigration would return and there would be famine. It is hard to believe, but Members can read the record. These are the same people who say that if we accept this treaty we will have a European army. An MEP from the Green Party went unchallenged on a national radio programme two days ago when she said that if people vote "Yes", they will be voting to join an arrangement which will have a nuclear capability. The suggestion was made that we would use nuclear weapons in a humanitarian or crisis management situation. That is ludicrous.
I do not wish to be unduly dismissive or disrespectful, but if we are to have a debate we cannot trot out these lines of argument which do not have a basis in this treaty or in the plans for a European defence and security policy and which were not part of the treaty negotiations. It was suggested that neutrality means Ireland should be neutered and should not play a role in international peacekeeping. As members of the UN, that has not been the policy of any Government of which I am aware. The Governments of Frank Aiken, Eamon de Valera, Liam Cosgrave or John A. Costello did not suggest that we would not play a role in the maintenance of international peace and security.
Do people think nothing will happen or that we are not able to do anything? These are dangerous situations which require much planning and professionalism. The Army is ready and able. Its members have given their lives in the interests of maintaining international peace and security. We want to maintain that in Europe as we have done elsewhere.
I come now to the other element of the "No" lobby, Sinn Féin. I said yesterday when I was asked why I would not take on board a Private Members' Bill by Deputy Ó Caoláin which seeks to institutionalise neutrality in our Constitution that I was not inclined to take advice from that quarter about where the true Óglaigh na hÉireann, the Irish Army, will serve in maintaining peace and security in the world. I also hear from that quarter that this involves the militarisation of the European Union. I would welcome very much anything that we can do to reduce militarisation in this country. Let us preach at home what we want others to practise abroad. We need to add reality to the argument.
There is an element of the "No" campaign which has what I would regard as a very skewed view of neutrality, but, at least, it is sincerely held. I also detect political opportunism in the "No" campaign. It is taking the opportunity afforded by the McKenna judgment to secure significant air time for minority views and trying to peddle a political line that will attract public attention and, perhaps, it hopes, support in future elections. I say that openly because it is what I believe; I call it political opportunism. I will not be dictated to from that quarter as to how a democratically elected Government should proceed to ensure our foreign policy traditions are maintained in the international security sphere and that we play our full role in the European Union given that it has opposed our membership from the beginning. I will demand consistency and a track record in this regard before calling on the people to buy into that argument.
We openly and enthusiastically go to the people to receive their mandate in the matter. I hope we will get them to realise how important it is that the generosity for which we are known is demonstrated in a practical way by using our hard won vote to allow others, who fought hard to win their vote, the same chance that was so generously and appropriately given to us 30 years ago. They will then be able to pursue their destiny as democratic societies emerging from totalitarian nightmares of the previous half century. When the matter is put to the people in this way, they will vote yes in great numbers. They will not be distracted by the issues being raised in an attempt to put a contrary view. These are proxy arguments for very skewed notions of our neutrality and anti-EU sentiment, the kind of political thinking which has been the consistent approach of some of the parties concerned for over 30 years.
If the treaty only required parliamentary approval, as is the case in the other 14 member states, the vast majority of Members of both Houses would be supporting it. It behoves us, as public representatives, to make sure that this is reflected in the vote of the people whose sovereign will will decide whether the Treaty of Nice will be part of our law and facilitate enlargement of the European Union.
The House will agree with me that it is difficult to over-emphasise the importance of the issues with which we are concerned in the Bill. Nothing less than the future political configuration of the continent is at issue. In all previous referenda the people have reiterated their commitment to the European project and Ireland's place at the forefront of the European Union. On this occasion, as the only country in the European Union to decide by referendum, they will, in a sense, be voting not just for themselves, but also on behalf of our fellow Europeans who aspire to join the Union. I have no doubt that this discussion in the Seanad, a body rightly renowned for the quality of its discourse on issues of major national importance, will contribute to a constructive national debate on the real issues involved. On that basis I am confident that the House will facilitate, and the people endorse, a positive result in the forthcoming referendum.