I am delighted to have the opportunity to raise this item. I am also pleased that the Minister of State at the Department of the Taoiseach, Deputy Roche, who is responsible for this area, is here.
It seems there is no sense of urgency on the part of the Government in communicating the contents of the reform treaty to the people of Ireland. I raised this matter with the Taoiseach, asking him what were his proposals for the lead-up to the ratification of the reform treaty. Amazingly, he answered briefly, stating that there were none at this stage. It was an incredible answer. Ireland is the only one of 27 countries that must undergo a referendum, all other countries will ratify the treaty by a vote in parliament. There is an onus on Ireland to get it right.
There is an onus to transmit information as quickly as possible. The reform treaty is not the most simple document. It is difficult to read and unintelligible to the layman. The constitutional treaty was in a different format and was a well-written consolidation document. The reform treaty is an amendment of the other seven treaties and is written in legalese. It is easy to understand if one is a lawyer but the people who will vote on it will find it difficult to understand.
The Taoiseach stated he could not produce any plans until Ireland formally signed the document on 13 December. However, the Government approved the document on 16 October, nearly two months before it will be signed. The text was approved on that occasion in Brussels. All that remains is for the 27 member states to formally sign what they have approved. There is no reason the Government should delay in preparing for the ratification.
The Joint Committee on European Affairs met this week and was full of enthusiasm for inviting Commissioners and Members of the European Parliament, holding meetings in the provinces and holding public meetings. Its response is to play a major role. The National Forum on Europe, which I attended this morning, produced a document on what it proposed, including meetings and publications. The Government, which has already approved the text, and which will sign the text on our behalf pending ratification, shows no leadership. I am worried that we will see a repetition of the Nice treaty. In 2001 the Irish people rejected that treaty initially because they were ignorant of the contents. The Fianna Fáil-led Government showed similar negligence and inertia in communicating the contents in a legible fashion.
The Minister of State is enthusiastic about ratification but the Taoiseach's reply shows no sense of urgency at the highest point of leadership. I urge the Minister of State to ensure the Cabinet discusses this as a matter of urgency and that we communicate the sense of urgency to the Houses and the country at large.