Twenty-Eighth Amendment of the Constitution (Treaty of Lisbon) Bill 2009: Second Stage (Resumed).

Atairgeadh an cheist: "Go léifear an Bille an Dara hUair anois."
Question again proposed: "That the Bill be now read a Second Time."

Gabhaim buíochas as an am a bheith againn chun labhairt ar an cheist ríthábhachtach seo. Is trua nach bhfuil deis níos faide agam chun na pointí atá agam a leagan amach agus is trua ach go háirithe toisc sinn an t-aon pháirtí sa Teach seo atá ag cur i gcoinne an mholta atá os ár gcomhair inniu, go rithfear an reachtaíocht seo a thabharfaidh cead reifreann eile ar chonradh Liospóin a dhéanamh athuair. Ba chóir go mbeimís tar éis an deis chéanna a fháil agus gach aon pháirtí eile.

Go fisiciúil, is ar imeall na hEorpa atá muid. Le linn an-chuid dar stair is ar imeall imeachtaí móra a stroic an Mhór-roinn as a céile nó a mhúnlaigh an áit ina bhfuil muid inniu a bhí Éire. Sin ráite, is minic chomh maith inár stair go raibh Éire i gcroí-lár na hEorpa. Ní ghá ach smaoineamh ar leathnú na Críostaíochta — bhí alt suimiúil faoi sin ag Beresford Ellis, agus "Untilled Fields", scéal faoi chomh mór agus a bhí Éire ag tréimhsí difriúla. I rith thréimhse an ghorta agus eachtraí eile, bhí Éire i gcroí-lár na hEorpa.

Le déanaí bhí muid i gcroí-lár na hEorpa dhá uair — an tAontas atá i gceist agam, seachas an Eoraip stairiúil — nuair a chuir muid spanner in inneall ailtirí thodhchaí an Aontais, todhchaí a bhí siad ag triail a mhunlú mar ollstát. Is cuimhin liom an alltacht a bhí orthu siúd go raibh sé de dhánacht ann ag tír bheag ar imeall na hEorpa, mar sin an tslí a fhéachann siad ar Éirinn, fód a sheasamh ina gcoinne. Tharla sin nuair a dhiúltaigh muid conradh Nice den chéad uair agus tharla sé anuraidh nuair a bhí sé d'éirim ag muintir na hÉireann conradh nach raibh ar a leasa a dhiúltú — sin an conradh Liospóin.

In ainneoin nach bhfuil aon duine ag rá nár chóir go mbeadh Éire i gcroí-lár na hEorpa, tá urlabhraithe an Rialtais ag cur inár leith gur sin an seasamh atá againn. Ar eagla nár chuala siad mé nó mo pháirtí le blianta anuas, is í croí-lár na hEorpa áit cheart na tíre seo ach is é an sórt Eorpa atá faoi chaibidil — agus ba cheart go mbeadh sin faoi chaibidil — ach go háirithe tar éis an vóta i gcoinne chonradh Liospóin anuraidh agus i gcoinne chonradh Nice roimhe sin. Sin an díospóireacht atá ar lorg timpeall na Mór-roinne ach tá sé ar lorg go háirithe sa tír seo.

Ireland's place is at the heart of Europe. Those of us who campaigned against the Lisbon treaty and the overwhelming number of people who voted against it last year did so because we believe a better Europe is possible, a Europe that is democratic and accountable, promotes workers' rights, protects public services and seeks to play a positive and progressive role in the wider world.

In June 2008 when almost 1 million people rejected the Lisbon treaty, we gave the Taoiseach, Deputy Cowen, and the Government a mandate for change. We gave him a strong hand to play at the Council of Ministers. Following the example of the people of France and The Netherlands, we called on our Government to re-open the treaty negotiations and to secure a better deal, not only for Ireland, but for the EU as a whole. The Government had the mandate to seek that from its EU partners. While it might not have liked this, it would have understood.

Once again, the Taoiseach and the Government failed the people. Like their disastrous mismanagement of the economy, Fianna Fáil and the Green Party have squandered an opportunity to secure a better treaty and a better future of the EU for all of us. They could have taken the steps demanded by the vote in June 2008. They could have renegotiated a better deal for Ireland. They could have built alliances with those in other EU countries who were seeking a better EU, namely, social and trade union movements, cultural and political organisations and individuals who endorsed the progressive "No" vote. They could have demanded a more democratic and accountable EU.

In the Taoiseach's statement to the House on 24 June, following the European Council meeting, An Taoiseach showed that he had failed miserably to do what the mandate had demanded of the Government. He told us the Council had agreed a package of legally binding guarantees that responded comprehensively to the concerns of the people. I wish that were true. If it were true, Sinn Féin would be taking a different position in this debate. The most salient fact to be drawn from the Council of Ministers meeting of last month is that the Government failed to secure a single change to the text of the Lisbon treaty.

When we vote on this matter on 2 October, we will vote on exactly the same treaty as was rejected by 53% of the electorate on 12 June 2008 — no amendments, additions or deletions. The so-called legally binding guarantees are nothing more than clarifications of the treaty. For those of us who took the time to read it the first time around, they tell us nothing new and in no way alter the content or our analysis of the treaty. They are simply an attempt to provide the Government with sufficient political cover to rerun a referendum on a treaty that already has been democratically rejected by the people.

Before dealing with the detail of the so-called guarantees, let me say a word about the Government's claim that, if the treaty comes into force, each member state will keep its Commissioner. Unfortunately, I suspect a slight of hand, that is, rather than having secured each member state's right to a permanent Commissioner, the Government has secured a deal that will last only five years, at which time the Lisbon treaty formula of a smaller rotating membership Commission will come into force in 2014. I call on the Minister for Foreign Affairs to clarify the position. Has he secured Ireland's right to a permanent Commissioner or, as I suspect, has he secured a stay of execution lasting only five years?

Two of the key reasons a majority of the electorate rejected the Lisbon treaty in June were concerns over workers' rights and public services. For the past decade, both the European Commission and the European Court of Justice have increasingly adopted right-wing neo-liberal policies and decisions in an attempt to "complete the internal market". Adopting a rigid interpretation of EU treaty law, both the Commission and the court actively campaigned against what they believed to be "distortions to competition". These included key aspects of workers' rights, such as minimum pay agreements and rights to collective bargaining. They also included attempts to prize open public services such as health and education to the vagaries of the market.

Across the EU, trade unions and citizens understood these threats. In France and The Netherlands, the forerunner of the Lisbon treaty was defeated primarily, although not exclusively, because of these concerns. They were not addressed in the subsequent Lisbon treaty. In Ireland, the country's largest union, SIPTU, could not endorse the treaty because of its concerns on these matters. Two of the state's largest unions, Unite and the TEEU, actively opposed it. According to the opinion polls, even a majority of Labour Party voters were opposed to the treaty because of concerns over workers' rights and public services.

Only hours after the result of last year's referendum was known, the Labour Party leader, Deputy Gilmore, understanding that many of his own supporters did not agree with him on the issue, was quick to tell anyone who was listening that the treaty was dead. Shortly after that referendum, he told the media the people had spoken and the result of the referendum must be fully respected. It is a pity he has not continued to espouse that view. He later said there can be no question of putting the same package to the people as was put to them before, yet he is supporting legislation in the House today that will put exactly the same package to them later this year. The referendum in October will be on exactly the same treaty as was rejected by more than 53% of the electorate in June 2008. I oppose the Bill.

The date 2 October 2009 will be a seminal moment in our relationship with the European Union. If we pass the Lisbon treaty, we will say to our EU neighbours that we are on board and intend to proceed in partnership with them. By passing it, we will say to our EU partners that we want to see the establishment of areas of co-operation or shared competences, particularly in respect of the internal market, energy and economic and social cohesion. These are the areas on which we must focus if we are to be assisted in putting our economy back together and getting people back to work. Without these areas of co-operation, we will be forced to proceed alone. We cannot afford such a policy. We rely, from this juncture, on our EU partners to assist us in getting back on track. These provisions are built into the treaty and if we reject it for a second time, any assistance to be garnered from our EU partners will be nullified.

We are a shrewd people and have built our country on the management of relationships, either socially, politically or from a business perspective. Adopting the treaty will assist those relationships, particularly in the areas of foreign direct investment and EU research programmes, two areas that are vital to our economic growth and which are encompassed by the treaty. I hope we can continue to play a qualitative role as a member of the European Union in this regard and that we can continue what has been a long and fruitful relationship. I am grateful for our membership of the European Union because mine is the generation that has benefited most therefrom.

Membership of the Union and protection of our national interests are not mutually exclusive. In spite of the economic constraints upon us now, it will be through a deepened relationship with our EU partners that we will restore our economic vitality.

At the EU Foreign Ministers meeting held after the last referendum, our Minister for Foreign Affairs spoke on the diverse nature of the Irish debate and the overlap in that debate between issues that were relevant to the treaty and others that were not. Some of those extraneous issues, which have no part in the debate on treaty revision, have now been put to bed. The guarantees are secured and we should acknowledge that.

Our national interest is a strong Ireland within a strong European Union and one that is concerned with jobs, families and social solidarity. The Union consists of 27 countries and 490 million people and I make no apologies for contending we should be part of an integrated union that challenges the hegemony of the United States, China and Russia.

Our views in the Labour Party have been always tempered by a belief in social solidarity, as espoused in the European social model. That model of social solidarity has come under attack from people such as our own Commissioner. Those who argue in favour of the retention of a Commissioner should ask themselves if the incumbent Irish Commissioner has acted in the best interest of this country or propagated an agenda that is contrary to our largely social democratic principles. I hope our next Commissioner will possess the egalitarian republican ideals once espoused by the Taoiseach. I am glad to note we have retained our Commissioner nonetheless.

The EU Commission, by its composition, has shifted to the right. That provides clear evidence of the need for the Union to reform its structures. The primacy of inter-institutionalism, that is, of an all-powerful Commission, must be challenged. I am not espousing intergovernmentalism per say because there must be a finely tuned balance between the two. The treaty provides such a compromise. That balance, as contained within this treaty, is provided for by extending the decision-making powers of the European Parliament, an institution that reflects the wishes of the peoples of Europe.

We, the peoples of Europe, must understand that the model underpinning the workings of the European Union has been dominated by those who have sought to de-regulate every aspect of our lives, especially within the realm of public services or services of general interest, as they are referred to in the treaty. I am glad we have made progress on that matter and that these services are recognised within the treaty.

We have seen the fruits of the Commission's labours — a European financial structure that is in tatters and an EU economy that is floundering. This is unsustainable and unbalanced. The way to redress the imbalance is to give more powers to the European Parliament. This will shift the power back to the people, the same people who are currently unemployed and face an uncertain future and who are rightly suspicious of their Governments and want to see jobs and the economy put to the forefront of the political agenda. The European Parliament will at least provide a counter-weight that will be more reflective of the wishes of the European peoples, even if it is dominated by the right. The Parliament, by its nature, because it does not govern unilaterally, is closer to the people and will reflect their concerns. It will ensure that job creation throughout Europe remains the first priority. That is provided for within the treaty.

The Lisbon treaty provides that the "ordinary legislative procedure" involves co-decision between the Council of Ministers and the European Parliament, with qualified majority voting in the Council of Ministers. This mechanism, by its nature, increases democratic control over legislation. This concept, however, is not debated widely because there is still a serious deficit of knowledge among legislators and the public as to the general powers of the European Parliament. Until every citizen has as much knowledge of how the Union works as they do of their local councils or even the Houses of the Oireachtas, treaty revisions will be dominated by issues such as those on which legal guarantees have been obtained and which form no part of the treaty.

The fact remains that we still do not understand how the whole mechanism works. Before I am accused of patronising anybody, I must state every single person to whom I spoke prior to the last referendum stated he or she did not understand the treaty or how it worked. That is a fact. How can I sell this treaty to anyone if the majority of us do not understand qualified majority voting or co-decision or know the difference between a directive, a regulation and a decision? We must inculcate our fellow citizens with knowledge of the workings of the institutions in a positive way. This must start in every school and from a young age. Until such time as this is achieved, there always will be opportunities for Governments and self-interested groups to take advantage of people's lack of knowledge.

There is still a dearth of knowledge. It is not sufficient for the Government to suggest it has delivered the goods in terms of legal guarantees or solemn declarations. There are many who were never exercised by these issues in the first instance. Most were exercised by the fact that they did not know what was in the treaty. There are many who were never exercised by these issues in the first instance.

We, in this House, are to blame for this. We have never set out to have a meaningful educational dialogue with our fellow citizens on the fundamentals of how the European Union works. That is partly why the referendum fell the last time. It could do so again unless we engage in a meaningful way with our fellow citizens.

I wish to share time with Deputies Edward O'Keeffe and Michael Kitt.

Is that agreed? Agreed.

I welcome the opportunity to speak in this important debate and to recognise the good work of our negotiators at Government and official level. The Lisbon treaty charts the future direction of Europe, characterised by member states working together more efficiently and effectively to exploit shared opportunities and resolve common problems. The biggest issue the Union faces is how to bring about economic recovery, to provide jobs for our people and to protect those already in employment. We are required to improve financial regulation to protect the fabric of our economic structure which has come under considerable strain in the past 12 months. The treaty also concerns energy security, climate change, conflict resolution and judicial and police cooperation in civil and criminal matters. This country is bedevilled by the plague of drugs trafficked through and imported from other member states. It is vitally important to develop a cooperative environment between member states so that we can deal with those who continue to ply such an evil trade.

The Lisbon treaty does not concern some hidden agenda to destroy this country. It does not mean that some rogue state or bureaucracy is trying to undermine or dispossess Ireland, an idea that some on the "side seek to advance as a reason to reject the treaty. It involves updating the legal basis on which the relationship between the 27 member states is governed. It entails improving democracy through the increased participation of the European Parliament in decision-making. The parliaments of the member states will be involved in a manner that gives rise to increased input from national politicians and enhances transparency in a complex decision-making process. It feeds into the notion that we are somewhat removed and our citizens do not understand the EU institutions. I often wonder whether they have a full view of the operation of national and local institutions notwithstanding that they form part of the general discourse. Ireland's media is to an extent removed from what happens in Brussels which creates a deficit in the flow of information. There is a good and compelling reason to have more debate here on issues dealt with at EU level that are important to this State. The involvement through the Oireachtas Joint Committee on European Affairs and the discussions in the plenary session of the House of EU issues will improve the public discourse and give people a better understanding of the issues which will help to deal with the knowledge deficit.

The treaty is designed to improve democracy within the Union by ensuring that the concerns of small member states are not ignored or overruled by the large blocs. Qualified majority does that. A veto is not democratic. To suggest that one country can hold up 26 others is undemocratic. It is a blocking mechanism and it does not serve the Union well. That is why the double majority whereby 15 member states representing over 65% of the population is an effective mechanism to protect small states and prevent the large ones having their way. At the same time it allows the Union to progress on important issues because one country cannot prevent the entire Union from developing solutions to its problems. The citizens' initiative is an important aspect of improving the democratic process or ensuring that citizens can advance a case before the Commission that their national government has ignored.

The treaty also defines the competences of the Union and makes it clear that a competence not explicitly conferred on the Union remains with the member state. In the "No" campaign people sought to introduce extraneous issues which had no basis in any of the legal documentation and suggest in a convoluted way that the European Court of Justice might determine a particular matter that would have a negative impact on the citizens of this State. That is not the case although it has been put forward at almost every opportunity. I am not aware of any group of people that seeks to do that.

A large factor in the previous campaign was that collectively on the "Yes" side we failed to communicate our message although almost all the political parties, except Sinn Féin, supported the treaty. The parties who supported it took for granted that it would pass. There did not appear to be anything particularly contentious in it and we all expected that it would be alright on the night but it was not. We left the way open for the conspirators to influence public opinion. Sure enough there were plenty of far-fetched theories, of notions that some external body would collect up children as young as three years if their parents were not managing their families in the way certain groups believed they should. There were those who suggested that our corporation tax, which is so valuable to the protection of our jobs would be abolished, that young men and women would be conscripted into an EU army, that not only would the abortion issue be back but that we would have euthanasia too and stem cell research with all sorts of outrageous individuals crawling around the State. These conspirators sought to create something that did not exist anywhere in the text and was not in the minds of anybody within the so-called bureaucracy. We all stand indicted of a failure to promote the treaty, although a few of us succeeded in getting a "Yes" vote in our constituencies but perhaps we should have been able to get a greater majority and assist those who had difficulties in achieving it.

The Deputy got no thanks for that.

We will see how that works out the next time, maybe the smile will be on the other side of our faces.

After the campaign the Government undertook significant research to find out what caused people who might otherwise have voted "Yes" to drift into the "No" camp. These included the abortion issue, which had been covered in the Maastricht treaty, social and ethical issues. Militarisation and taxation were important and the loss of influence through the loss of a Commissioner. This reflects a lack of understanding of the EU institutions and the roles of the Commission, the Council of Ministers, the EU Council and the European Court of Justice. Some believed that without a Commissioner we would not have influence. Notwithstanding that, I met many who felt there were too many rules, regulations and directives coming from Europe and the fewer Commissioners, the smaller the body of rules and directives. That point was lost in the debate.

The work of our committee on European affairs, and particularly that of the Sub-committee on Ireland's Future in Europe, helped us to develop a model to ensure that we get over this information deficit. It was also helpful in identifying the price that we will pay if we fail to ratify the treaty. Some suggest that there is no price to pay but there is. Paul Rellis of Microsoft and representatives of other multinationals who came before the committee said that if Ireland failed to ratify the treaty there would be implications for foreign direct investment because the lack of certainty from an investor's point of view would affect our capacity not just to create jobs but to retain the jobs we have. That was going to impact on our capacity not just to create jobs but to retain the jobs we already have.

There are reforms necessary within this House and they can be studied again at a later stage. All Oireachtas Members must be encouraged to take on a more active role in EU issues, and regular debates in this House will ultimately lead to a greater level of understanding in what goes on within the European institutions.

This is our chance to regain a central role as committed Europeans, gaining for our country through active participation and decision making. We must show leadership and move into this to a point where we do not feel fearful. We must bring certainty to our position as a leader rather than a follower in Europe and we must retain an active participatory role in shaping the future of the European Union. We must protect our advances, co-operate to resolve our difficulties and stand proud as an equal in a Union of diverse nations sharing common goals and objectives, and working to resolve differences within a framework based on the rule of law and set out and updated in the Lisbon treaty.

I support this treaty and congratulate the Minister and his officials on their negotiations. The treaty amends the two treaties upon which the Union is founded. I recall that when we discussed the issue before we voted the last time, we spoke about having an effective and efficient Europe and it is important to promote that in plain language.

We have seen the Union growing from six to 27 member states and we are very concerned about enhancing the role of national parliaments and the European Parliament while maintaining equal rights for all member states, particularly in the nomination of a Commissioner. The reduction in the number of Commissioners was dealt with in the Nice treaty and although it is not the most important issue to my mind, people felt there should be a voice for every country and it is important that the matter be considered.

I was glad to a see a citizens' initiative in the treaty, where citizens of the Union would have a more direct say on EU matters. That is to be welcomed, along with the Charter of Fundamental Rights, which is legally binding for the Union institutions and member states when they implement European Union law.

For the first time there is reference to a provision for combating climate change. I am glad this is to be considered, particularly as it regards developing countries. I know the Minister is interested in developing countries and helping the poorest of the poor. It is a major issue and it is welcome in that context. There is a retention of unanimous voting in the Council of Ministers in policy areas such as taxation and defence. There has been much debate over the years about the need for the European Union to speak with one voice internationally and I welcome the appointment of a high representative for foreign affairs and security policy. That person will have the responsibility to make the Union have a clearer voice in international affairs.

The guarantees which have been fought for are very welcome and these assurances meet the people's concerns. They were finalised at the June 2009 European Council. Every speaker has referred to the nomination of a Commissioner, which is very important, as there were posters in the last campaign outlining that concern. There are also legal guarantees on the right to life, family and education, taxation and security and defence. The confirmation of the importance which the Union attaches to workers' rights and social policy is one of the very welcome guarantees which have been given.

Some of the research carried out has been mentioned and I note the research done by Millward Brown. It shows a bigger turnout for the Lisbon treaty referendum compared to previous treaty votes, and the proportion of those voting "No" increased. There was also an issue concerning the amount of potential "Yes" voters who stayed at home, with one reason being the lack of understanding and knowledge of the issues. Those of us promoting a "Yes" vote in this instance must address that.

It is interesting that 60% of Irish voters believe Ireland's interests are best served by remaining fully involved in the European Union. Despite the outcome of the first Lisbon treaty referendum, Irish people are among the most positive in their attitudes toward the European Union. I understand 73% of people considered European Union membership to be very good and even among "No" voters, 63% saw the European Union as a good thing. That is well ahead of the European average of 52%. Many positive messages come from that research.

Concerns about Irish neutrality and possible conscription into a European army have been dealt with, along with issues relating to abortion. These matters were not contained in the treaty but they came up, so they have been dealt with through the guarantees. The research also addressed issues arising from advocating a referendum based on institutional reform, as this can be difficult. There is much more information available now in the national media and even among families, friends and colleagues. When we discussed issues such as institutional reform in the past, it was a big turn-off, so we must ensure the language is plain and simple on the next occasion.

I welcome the additional legal guarantees and assurances which will address the concerns of the Irish people. They have been confirmed by the European Union and I look forward to the referendum on 2 October.

I am glad to have the opportunity to speak in this important debate. I canvassed very strongly in the last referendum campaign and to my disappointment, we were not successful. There was not enough hard work done in that campaign by political and interested parties on the island. Be that as it may, I congratulate the Minister for Foreign Affairs, Deputy Micheál Martin, on promoting this second referendum on the Lisbon treaty. He did a great job in getting the guarantees in Europe and I wish him well in the campaign, which I hope will be successful. It will not be any easy sell to the people.

The Minister has presented a very fine White Paper on the treaty but is any work being done in schools to educate our kids at all levels — including primary and post-primary levels — on the issue? They will speak to their parents and educate them on the importance of Europe from an Irish context.

We have gone through a very difficult period on this island in the past few months in the financial area. If we had been more generous in our support of the Lisbon treaty, we may have received much more support from Europe. If it were not for the European Central Bank, we would be in great difficulty in the country. Mr. Jean-Claude Trichet has been very helpful to Ireland in making funding available to help the economy and get us over this difficult period in our financial and economic history.

We are part of the bigger picture in the European Union. I read in a magazine this evening that 4 million people work in the agriculture industry in Germany, which is a significant number equivalent to the current Irish population. The Common Agricultural Policy is very important for Ireland but we have seen a great watering down of it in the past number of years. We have seen the effect of the health check on rural life in Ireland and I would sound a warning on the difficulties in agriculture.

The farming and commercial sectors were the mainstay of Europe in 1973 and 1974 and they put us into the Union. The campaign was fought by Jack Lynch, Paddy Hillery and others, and it was a great boost and success for Ireland. Many of the peripheral parties, including that on my left, were opposed to it at the time. There will always be peripheral parties to oppose the good economic decisions. We are a peripheral nation surrounded by water. There is a high cost to get goods from this country to mainland Europe.

We fought a good campaign.

The Deputy is in a peripheral party and can only stand up tonight to make a protest. He will not be able to divide the House.

We represent 54% of the people on this issue.

The Deputy can keep quiet. I am glad there is a united approach in the House, apart from the smaller groupings, as that is very important. We should not be complacent because if we had more debate, we could better educate people. There are many relevant points in the White Paper.

I had the privilege of travelling through Munster and meeting many Deputies and councillors in the last European election campaign. I got a handful of votes in that so I got some recognition. Rural areas of Munster — from Nenagh to Castletownbere and from Kenmare to the border of Waterford and Wexford — are completely dependent on agriculture. Industry in many rural towns in these areas is based on agriculture. That fact is often forgotten. Some 4 million people out of a total population of 90 million in Germany work in agriculture, particularly in the area of farming.

The economic scene in Ireland is driven by the dairy industry, which is in difficulty at present. We have the support of the German Chancellor at meetings of the Council of Ministers and the Heads of Government in respect of this matter. However, we do not have that of Commissioner Fischer Boel who is pursing a different agenda. Emergency aid is required in order that rural farming and the rural dairy industry might be supported. European agriculture cannot survive without such support. We cannot compete with countries in the south Atlantic, such as Brazil, or those in the Pacific, such as New Zealand. There is no point in stating that matters are different.

This will become an issue for those who live in rural areas during the forthcoming campaign. I am a good friend of the Minister for Foreign Affairs and I want to speak fairly and honestly to him. Many farmers are not able to make ends meet because they are being paid only 20 cent or less a litre in respect of the milk they produce. New Zealand currently produces 17 million tonnes of milk, while Ireland produces 5 million. As a result, there is a real issue of concern for those involved in agriculture in Ireland and throughout Europe.

People who live in rural areas have always been one of the mainstays of this country. In addition, rural industry is extremely important. I ask the Minister for Foreign Affairs, who is an able negotiator, who has enjoyed great success in the portfolios he has held and of whom we are very proud, to use his influence in respect of this matter. If the referendum is carried, I hope he and I will be able to celebrate his success in Cork on 3 October. I wish him well.

That would be a good occasion for the Minister to announce he intends to take a shot at becoming party leader.

It will be a good occasion for drinking Murphy's stout.

There will be fireworks that night, please God. I wish to share time with Deputies Perry and Tom Hayes.

Is that agreed? Agreed.

Like almost every other Member of the House, I am of the view that the referendum on 2 October will be a crucial test for the Irish nation and its people. I have been a Deputy for some time and I cannot recall a more important test.

Despite the complexities of the EU laws deemed necessary to help direct the lives of 500 million people across 27 countries, there are few enough questions which arise to be answered in respect of those laws. When the referendum is held on 2 October, everyone will be required to answer a central question, namely, whether the 4.2 million people who live in this country, which is located on the periphery of Europe, should enjoy the benefits — and in some instances the shortcomings — of having access to the potentially massive market that exists across the 27 countries of the Union. They must also evaluate whether we have a better chance of selling, at a premium, the vast array of goods and services we produce inside or outside the European Union. In other words, we must ask whether we need the EU more than it needs us.

Will Ireland's participation as a fully integrated member of the EU lead to low interest rates? There is no question that Ireland will be always a member of the Union but we must ask whether we will be at the centre of things if we reject the Lisbon treaty. If Ireland remains on the periphery of Europe, literally and otherwise, will that be good or bad for the countless thousands of young couples that are up to their eyeballs in debt as a result of the large mortgages they took out to purchase their homes?

Will the changes that have been introduced to the Lisbon treaty make the mood more conducive in the context of allowing people to make up their own minds or will the famous slogan "If in doubt, leave it out" so successfully employed by the anti-Lisbon treaty lobby during the previous campaign again hold sway. I heard that slogan on a thousand occasions when campaigning on the previous occasion. Many people said they did not fully understand the treaty and that those opposing it must be right so, therefore, they voted "No". That is a trap into which we cannot fall on this occasion.

As already stated, the laws governing the EU are extremely complex. Hundreds of students write PhDs on the subject each year. However, I am concerned with regard to the fundamental questions that arise for the ordinary man and woman which will have to be answered prior to 2 October. If one were to research and study the myriad laws deemed necessary to run Galway County Council, not to mention a Department, one would easily come to understand how seemingly complex are the laws required to order the lives of 500 million people across 27 countries. That does not mean, however, that we should not try to bring the EU closer to every citizen of the Union.

In 1971 I was involved with Macra na Feirme, which canvassed extensively to bring about Ireland's access to the then EEC. The principles behind the EU, which I do not have time to discuss in detail at this point, are the same now as they were then.

We must ask whether the new version of the Lisbon treaty is more appropriate than that which was rejected by the people. Many people either did not vote on the previous occasion or they voted "No". In fairness to the Minister, the Government, the leaders of Fine Gael and the Labour Party and everyone else involved, I am genuinely of the view that the new version is more appropriate. I wish to provide a number of examples in that regard. I know the Minister has heard them a thousand times but there is no harm in placing them on record again.

I have always believed that preventing each country from having a Commissioner was a major mistake and I said so during the previous referendum campaign. Not only did those on the Minister's side of the House disagree with me, so too did certain Members on this side. Irish people and those of most other nationalities like to see their man at the centre of power. Whether they are right or wrong in this regard is another story altogether. The fact is, however, that many Irish people want to see one of their compatriots representing them in the green jersey. It can be argued that this is not what EU Commissioners do. However, countless hundreds of people in my constituency did not vote on the previous occasion because Ireland was going to lose its Commissioner. I sincerely hope that the fact that this will no longer be the case will make a major difference to the result on 2 October.

The issue with which we are dealing is extremely complex. The European Union is comprised of separate countries which have many and diverse interests and among which there are vast cultural differences. These countries are joined by a strong thread which demands a Europe of rights and values, freedom, solidarity and security. Citizens' rights, the Charter of Fundamental Human Rights and the freedom of European citizens surely must be core democratic principles to which all law-abiding people in Europe — and their counterparts throughout the world — would aspire. In light of the principles it espouses, it is fitting that Irish people are at the heart of something as great as the European Union.

I agree with Deputy Ned O'Keeffe's assertions in respect of farming and agriculture. However, I do not have time to deal with that matter now. Although it was presented as being otherwise, it always has been the case that, under the Lisbon treaty, we will retain control over our tax rates. That is a major issue for the Irish people. If I succeeded in doing nothing else other than getting that message across, I would be satisfied. This is an extremely important matter.

We must move forward and run the referendum campaign on the basis that we have respect for those who wish to vote "No". We must take into account their views but we must also get our point across and ensure there is a resounding "Yes" vote.

Like other Members, I am glad to have the opportunity to express my views on the re-running of the referendum on the Lisbon treaty. Like many Members, I canvassed during the last referendum but as was noted earlier, collectively they took their eyes off the ball in respect of the issues with which they were being confronted. As politicians and parliamentarians and people with their ears to the ground, Members should have known the reason that 53% of the electorate voted against it. They should have been more in touch and should have been able to understand the people's thinking. However, Members also failed to tell or explain to the people what was involved in the Lisbon treaty. Barely a week elapsed after the vote before people began to state they voted "No" or abstained because they did not understand the treaty. Consequently, a great number of people did not understand the treaty and as we face into another referendum, it would be naïve to allow the same thing to happen.

Members should consider how this country has gained so much from its membership of the European Union. However, more than 418,000 people are unemployed at present and that number is rising. Last Tuesday, I was in Tipperary town before leaving for Dublin and saw hundreds or perhaps thousands of people standing on the footpaths in the dole queue. I wondered what such people will do when the Lisbon treaty referendum is put before them. While I do not know, I believe Members have a duty and a responsibility to find out what they will do and what are their concerns. These people who now find themselves unemployed have never been out of work previously. Only recently, I read that our stock in the United States of America, particularly in respect of industrialists who might be considering locating here, never has been so low. I spoke to someone who has been involved with such individuals recently and it was explained to me that because we voted "No" in the last referendum, American industrialists are not coming to Ireland as a result. Is this true or false? The people on the live register and in the dole queues should be made aware of the real consequences for Ireland if there is another "No" vote. This is a vital issue that must be explained to people. The population is educated and if people understand the consequences of a "No" vote, many will go to the polling booths and do what both the Minister and Fine Gael wants them to do. It is of major concern to me that the Minister should get over this hurdle.

The second issue I wish to address is that of agriculture. A huge number of farmers voted against the Lisbon treaty in the last referendum and the IFA must bear some responsibility in this regard. At a protest march it held not too far from Leinster House, it stated it would recommend a "No" vote unless the Government did what it was asked. Many people left Dublin and went back to places like Tipperary, having decided to take it out on the Government by voting "No", which they did. I believe the Government has a responsibility to point out what is happening.

However, matters were not helped today when the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food announced the REP scheme would be stopped. I was amazed to receive a call to that effect from a constituent this afternoon. The REP scheme is extremely valuable to many people across every county in Ireland and Deputies Ned O'Keeffe and Connaughton spoke previously on the importance of agriculture and rural communities. However, making such a statement within a few months of another Lisbon treaty referendum will drive a wedge between the Government and all members of the farming community who have become involved in a REP scheme. They associate it with Europe and perceive it to be of European origin but today's news was like driving a nail into that coffin. Many people in rural areas believe that Europe has been hard on them and that directives and legislation has made their life more difficult.

Members must bring such people with them because Ireland needs Europe. I understand, just as well as any other representative of a rural constituency, how much we have gained from Europe over the years. I have listened to the arguments of those who assert we would be better off outside the Union or by standing up to Europe or that we would be better off without the Lisbon treaty. They are the same people as those who, when the referendum was first held on joining Europe, argued that Ireland should not do so. Deputy Connaughton spoke earlier of the time when he was a member of Macra na Feirme. As a young man, I attended a Macra na Feirme rally in Listowel. I walked through its streets and I will never forget the number of people there who argued for a "No" vote and that we should not join Europe. Ireland was a poor country then and we were badly off. However, the same people were putting up identical arguments again during the last referendum and will be arguing against the treaty when it comes before the people in the next few months.

I wish to make two suggestions to the Minister. The unemployed people who can be found in every town, village and county across this country should be given an explanation of how they would be better off, were we in Europe, as well as of the consequences were we to be left behind, because that is what is happening. The second group of real concern are those people associated with agriculture and who are involved in the farming industry. Whatever happens between now and October 2, there should be no further clangers, such as the one made this afternoon. All Members will work and will do what they can. While they will canvass and campaign, and I am giving a commitment in the House this evening that I will do more canvassing than ever, I ask the Government to give Members a hand in respect of those issues.

I compliment Deputy Tom Hayes on the important points he has just made. The Minister will have taken on board the point that the reactions from the farming, business and other sectors are very important. I compliment the Minister on the White Paper, which is a highly readable document and welcome this opportunity to debate the Bill. If approved, the Bill will allow Ireland to ratify the Lisbon treaty. It is therefore of vital importance in defining Ireland's future in the European Union and the economic and social future of this country. I will be wholeheartedly supporting the treaty and will urge the people of my constituency to agree to ratify it in the referendum to be held on 2 October.

When Ireland joined the EEC in 1973 there were nine member state. Now that the Union has expanded to 27, common sense dictates that a larger organisation, like any business, must revise its rules to advance the common good and streamlining the decision-making process of the EU institutions will make them more effective, efficient and flexible. In our capacities as the chairs of the Oireachtas joint committees pertaining to European matters, Deputy Durkan and I visited Stockholm last weekend. On visiting the Parliament there, we encountered great expectation and determination and there will be bitter disappointment unless this measure is ratified for the benefit of the entire Union.

The Irish people have a unique chance in the referendum on 2 October to give their verdict on the proposed modernisation of the EU institutions as set out in the Lisbon Treaty. The treaty offers the best deal for Ireland and for Europe. The treaty represents the best balance of interest between co-operating with other EU member states and the protection of our national interests. These national interests have been further protected on foot of the European Council decision of 19 June, on which I compliment the Minister, which put beyond any doubt that the Lisbon treaty will not affect in any way Ireland's taxation policy, which is critically important, our traditional policy of military neutrality and our constitutional provisions in respect of the right life, education and family. There is also agreement that Ireland will retain its Commissioner if the treaty is ratified, which is highly important.

However, it is not simply for these reasons that I consider the treaty to be good for Ireland and for Europe. The Lisbon treaty goes further than any other treaty in enhancing the democratic accountability and legitimacy of the European Union. I refer in particular to its new title on democratic provisions, which for the first time will give national parliaments, including the Oireachtas, a formal standing within the European Union's institutional architecture. A point that was not sold the last time was that of the role of Dáil and Seanad Éireann and the enhanced powers were not explained effectively. This issue is dealt with well in chapters 2 and 4 of the White Paper.

As part of the overall package, the Lisbon treaty seeks to involve national Parliaments more closely in EU policy making. The treaty aims to encourage the involvement of Dáil Éireann and Seanad Éireann as a means to ensure that decisions are taken as closely as possible to the citizens of Ireland and the Union. According to Article 5, national Parliaments will become the guardians of the principle of subsidiarity, dealt with in chapters 2 and 4 of Annexe A. Subsidiarity ensures the EU only acts within the limits of the powers conferred on it by the member states. All draft EU laws will have to be forwarded to Dáil Éireann for scrutiny. Eight weeks will have to pass before draft laws can be put on the agenda and a further ten days must elapse before a position can be taken.

I refer to holding the Government to account. Under a yellow and orange card mechanism, Dáil Éireann can oblige the European Commission to re-think a draft legislative proposal. The proposal can even be defeated if the Council of Ministers or the European Parliament support the opinion of a majority of the national parliaments.

The Joint Committee on European Scrutiny published a report in May 2008 on the new provisions of the Lisbon treaty enhancing the role of national Parliaments, which was debated in this House in June 2008. In this report, the committee strongly supports the Lisbon treaty provisions that would enhance the role of Dáil Éireann in the EU political process. The committee noted that the proposals have been supported by the European Parliament. The committee strongly recommends that significant reforms are made to Dáil and Seanad procedures to ensure regular consideration of EU matters in plenary session. The Ceann Comhairle has also examined this matter. As an important start, we recommend that the Dáil and Seanad should allocate at least one day a month to consider EU business.

If the treaty is approved by the people, which I hope it is, the Oireachtas will have to decide how to implement these important democratic provisions. The Joint Committee on European Scrutiny has already built up much knowledge and expertise in the area of checking that draft EU laws respect the principle of subsidiarity. I envisage this committee having a role in implementing the new powers given to the Oireachtas under the Lisbon treaty. The treaty will also enable national parliaments, including the Oireachtas, to take part in any future treaty revisions. If the proposed amendment to the treaties involves a change from unanimous decision making to qualified majority voting or co-decision, any individual parliament has the right to veto the proposal. This is an important debate. We cannot get it wrong on this occasion. There is an obligation on all parliamentarians to canvass so that this referendum is passed.

I wish to share time with Deputy Finian McGrath.

Is that agreed? Agreed.

I am grateful for the opportunity to contribute to a discussion on the future of this country. The forthcoming referendum on the Lisbon treaty represents a significant crossroads for our society and our country as a member state of the European Union. It is clear to those who live here and visit that we have derived many benefits since our membership of the EU began. One can travel to any part of the country for physical examples such as road and other infrastructural projects and read the information boards that demonstrate the contribution membership of the EU has made to these projects. The business and farming sectors have benefitted greatly over the years. Membership is imperative from that point of view.

Last week the Commissioner for Employment, Social Affairs and Equal Opportunities, Vladimír Spidla, visited the mid-west, where an application to the globalisation fund by the Government is under consideration by the European Commission. A significant amount of funding will be made available to those in the mid-west arising from the many job losses we have experienced over the years.

Members of the farming community will be honest in saying that membership of the EU has benefitted them. There is a downside but the benefits have outweighed it. We have an issue with regulation and red tape but having a diminished influence on the EU will not help the cause of rectifying that issue. In the constituency of Limerick West, approximately 18,000 people voted in favour while 21,000 people voted "No". The margin was 3,000 people and I, along with my Oireachtas colleagues, will be making a determined effort to deliver a majority "Yes" vote on this occasion. It is important to point out to those who had doubts on the last occasion that issues such as taxation, the Commissioner, social issues such as abortion and religion, common defence and Irish neutrality have been copperfastened and protected. A number of people who I spoke to have greater confidence since the Minister for Foreign Affairs, Deputy Micheál Martin, and the Taoiseach returned with the declarations on legal undertakings. They are moving towards the "Yes" side of the campaign.

We must take on board the lessons learned from the last campaign. There is an onus on all political parties to engage fully. We did this to some degree last time and the criticism of political parties that advocated a "Yes" vote on the last occasion was not all fair. Fianna Fáil organised a number of public meetings in my constituency. In one case I sent out 4,000 communications to members of the public inviting them to an information session on the Lisbon treaty but only 80 people showed up. It is difficult to engage the public on this matter but there is also an onus on members of the public to inform themselves. In the fallout from the last referendum, people said they did not know what the referendum was about and did not understand it. It is a complex issue but I must ask whether they took the time to read the documentation supplied by the referendum commission or consulted the websites of political parties to see how they attempted to explain the issues. There is a responsibility on members of the public to inform themselves.

As Deputy Tom Hayes stated, there is a responsibility on organisations such as the IFA, the trade unions and the church to play their part. In the last campaign I was campaigning outside a church, when a number of people unknown to me appeared and distributed "No" literature with pictures of Pope Benedict on it.

It definitely was not me.

It is very important for the future of this country that the Lisbon treaty is carried with a positive message that our place is at the heart of Europe and that we maintain our influence in it.

I thank the Ceann Comhairle for the opportunity to speak on this very important debate on the Lisbon treaty. All politicians should listen to the people and, at the same time, be open to change. I voted "No" in the last referendum on the Lisbon treaty because I had serious concerns about the lack of an Irish voice on the EU Commission, the incorporation of the European Defence Agency into the treaties, the threat to our neutrality, tax issues, workers' rights, the threat to the Oireachtas and the need to build a more democratic and peaceful Europe. I set out my stall to the Irish people and voted "No". The vast majority of people supported that position.

I am in the middle of a detailed consultation process with my election team and supporters. I have met the Minister for Foreign Affairs twice and I will probably meet him again. I am not happy with some of the people involved in the "Yes" campaign, especially those who claim to be democrats but act in an arrogant manner. However, this debate is bigger than me and I have a duty to put the interests of the Irish people first. I will not play politics and I will do my best to make an informed decision. I always have been an internationalist, supporting human rights across the globe and not just in the EU. During the debate I wanted firm and legal guarantees. I also wanted a commitment to a protocol. We appear to have achieved these objectives as there is now a package of legally binding guarantees on the table. I must examine them seriously; I cannot walk away and say "No" for the sake of saying "No". For me, the second treatment of the Lisbon treaty is a step in the right direction. We appear to remain in control of our own tax rates, Ireland's traditional policy of military neutrality seems to be guaranteed and there is a solemn declaration making clear the importance of workers' rights and public services. Can I ignore cast-iron legal guarantees on taxation or neutrality?

In the coming weeks I will work closely with my election team and participate in the debate. I will remain open and make up my mind on the facts. I will ignore the spin and challenge any politicians who use the issues for personal or political gain. It was disgraceful in the last referendum when politicians used posters to push themselves rather than to explain the issues to our people. It is time to grow up and be straight with our citizens. The Irish electorate is sophisticated and can spot the game players. I urge everyone to listen to the debate and then to make up their minds; do not be bullied by misinformation.

I still have major concerns about the Lisbon treaty and the activities of some people in the European Union. However, this will not stop me making a decision in the interests of the Irish people. I have moved from being a "No" voter to being a floating voter. I am open to the development of a more peaceful and democratic Europe; that is my clear position. As a democrat I must be extremely respectful of the fact that 53.4% of the Irish people voted "No" the last time compared to a "Yes" vote of 46.6%, although the turnout was 53%. All democrats in the House must seriously consider this position.

During the previous campaign I strongly supported the Peace and Neutrality Alliance, PANA. In May it stated there would be a "Yes" vote on the Lisbon treaty if there was a legal guarantee on neutrality and we now appear to have this. In April, it urged people to insist on a protocol and we seem to have obtained that. It is important that we re-examine the details of the legally binding guarantee. The Lisbon treaty does not affect or prejudice Irish traditional policy of military neutrality. It does not provide for the creation of a European army or for conscription to any military formation. It does not affect the right of Ireland to determine the nature and volume of its defence and security expenditure. I welcome the Government's proposal on the European Defence Agency and the legislation. I urge people to listen to the debate. I call for a balanced debate in which people deal with facts and let the Irish people make up their minds.

I thank the Deputies for making time for me. I listened with interest to the debate for most of the afternoon. In response to some of the points raised, the European model replaced centuries of anything but neutrality. We had allied nations, nations behind the Iron Curtain, and nations being as neutral as they could, such as Ireland, Holland and Belgium. Every neutral country got rolled over by one of the axis, allied or Iron Curtain states and we had centuries of this. The reason the European model has worked is that it was totally different; it set about bringing peace and stability, food security, employment and a better life for the now 500 million citizens.

When we joined in 1973 it comprised nine states and there are now 27. Any organisation, company or business that expands threefold will have to change how it does its business and operates. The voters of this country are sophisticated but they do not want a simple message made complicated. They want what is involved explained honestly in black and white. Since the first referendum on the Lisbon treaty was defeated, clarity has been brought to a certain number of issues which were of concern to many people, namely, tax, neutrality, qualified majority voting, defence, and the determination of our social and moral policy issues.

The danger is that from now on we will state we have done all that and people should vote for it. We have to continue to engage with people. Unfortunately, the previous referendum date was announced by a Taoiseach who was about to leave office. The way in which it was announced this time is much more helpful and we know what we have to do. I ask all sides to pull back from political brinkmanship — Independent Members as well as party Members — and let us engage in a true, proper and informed campaign to convince the people honestly that this is the best road to go.

I thank all Deputies for their contributions to today's debate. By and large it was constructive and I will endeavour to respond to a number of issues that Members raised. To cut to the chase, Deputy Ó Snodaigh raised a number of points that need to be dealt with quickly. He put forward the idea that we had negotiated a behind the scenes deal which would mean having a commissioner for only five years. In response to Irish concerns about the Commission, it is now agreed by the European Council of Ministers that each member state will continue to have the right to nominate a commissioner. This will be a permanent arrangement and the formal decision on it will be taken after the Lisbon treaty enters into force. If the Lisbon treaty is not ratified the Commission to be appointed in November 2009 will need to have fewer than 27 members; not all countries can be represented if we stick to the Nice treaty rules. The only way in which we can be guaranteed to keep our commissioner is to ratify the Lisbon treaty and let us have no ifs or buts about that.

There is no guarantee.

If one votes "No" this time we will lose our commissioner. I will quote from the Council's conclusions which state:

Having carefully noted the concerns of the Irish people as set out by the Taoiseach, the European Council, at its meeting of 11-12 December 2008, agreed that, provided the Treaty of Lisbon enters into force, a decision would be taken, in accordance with the necessary legal procedures, to the effect that the Commission shall continue to include one national of each Member State.

Nothing could be clearer than that and Deputy Ó Snodaigh should not raise false hares on this issue.

Deputy Ó Snodaigh also contends that the Government will put the very same treaty before the people for a second time. The package to be put to the people this year will be different from last year; it will involve the retention of an Irish commissioner, which is a fundamental difference. We should recall that every poster on the lamp posts last time called for a "No" vote to keep the commissioner.

Last time the Minister told us we could not do so.

We have negotiated and now we can.

So the Minister was wrong.

That is a product of the campaign and I acknowledge it.

The Minister should have negotiated harder.

The bottom line is that it would be honest of Deputy Ó Snodaigh to acknowledge it.

We acknowledge the wisdom of the people to reject it so the Minister could achieve having a commissioner.

A "Yes" vote will enable us and every other member state to retain a commissioner.

The package we are putting forward will also include legally binding guarantees on ethical issues, taxation and our traditional policy of military neutrality. Those who were concerned about those issues last year can be completely reassured by the guarantees we have secured. The commitments and legal guarantees are clear and unambiguous. To ensure that these legal guarantees have full European Union treaty status our European Union partners have agreed that they will be incorporated into a protocol to the European Union treaties at the time of the next EU accession treaty which will most likely be 2010 or 2011. That was not on the table on the previous occasion and it is a significant additional element to the package we are putting before the people.

With regard to amendments to Article 48 of the Treaty on European Union, TEU, which according to Deputy Ó Snodaigh will allow for changes to be made to the treaties without recourse to a full democratic process of negotiation, that is not true. Article 48 of the TEU as amended by the treaty of Lisbon provides that any future move to confer additional powers on the EU or to alter the provisions of the treaties will continue to require an intergovernmental conference and this is known as the ordinary revision procedure. A proposal to amend the European Union internal policies in a way that does not increase the Union's competencies would not require an intergovernmental conference and this procedure is referred to as a simplified revision procedure. Any such decision would still have to be ratified in accordance with the constitutional requirements of each member state. In Ireland, this means that advice will be sought from the Attorney General on each occasion as to whether a referendum is required.

The Lisbon treaty also contains another simplified revision procedure. This provides that the European Council, acting unanimously, can decide that a policy should in future be decided by qualified majority voting rather than unanimity. Any such decision can be vetoed by any government or any national parliament. This procedure cannot be used with respect to security and defence matters. The procedure is intended for cases where all member states and all parliaments are of the opinion that a certain issue can be decided by qualified majority voting. The need for complete unanimity means that this procedure will, probably, be rarely used. It is key that even in these limited circumstances, nothing can be done without all governments and parliaments being in agreement.

I agree with the point made by Deputy Ned O'Keeffe with regard to schools and the ongoing need to provide information to the generation to come. As part of the communicating Europe initiative, we have provided funding for a number of school-based projects and for curriculum development activities. In particular, we are working with the Department of Education and Science and the NCCA in terms of the European content of the SPHE curriculum. Our website, eumatters.ie, will be a valuable resource for teachers and students looking for accessible information on Europe. We will also forward copies of the White Paper to all primary and secondary schools in September for their libraries as a resource for children doing projects on Europe and so on. The websites on both the Lisbon treaty and EU matters will provide a comprehensive resource for our teachers and schools on the European Union generally.

I appreciate the comments made by Deputy Finian McGrath. He made an interesting contribution this evening in so far as he voted "No" on the last occasion. He has indicated that he has an open mind on this occasion. I have had two meetings with him and he acknowledged then that substantial change had occurred in terms of the legal guarantees. He was particularly impressed with the guarantees with regard to the traditional policy on military neutrality and the defence issues, about which he and his team had concerns. He has indicated that he wishes to meet me again and I will respond positively. That is important.

If Deputy McGrath is happy, we are all happy.

He is on the road to Damascus.

It is important we engage with people who voted "No" the last time. It is important we acknowledge the points raised by those who voted "No". The guarantees we have secured do that in a comprehensive way. We must reach out to and engage with people to make progress on the big picture. The big picture is the economic situation.

People may not realise it, but the Lisbon treaty is the outcome of almost ten years discussion. As the Minister of State, Deputy Roche, said today, no work has ever been more painstakingly gone through than all of the preparatory work that went into the Lisbon treaty. Deputies will recall it was born out of a declaration on the future of the European Union agreed with the then 15 member states back in 2000. They declared an enlarged Union would need better institutions and structures, would need to come closer to its citizens and be more responsive to their needs and expectations.

This early proposal was followed by a convention, which was a major innovation. The convention included not just representatives of the member state governments, but also national parliamentarians and representatives of the European Commission and European Parliament. Their draft treaty was then the focus of an Intergovernmental Conference in 2003 and, after a period of reflection, a second one in 2007. The outcome of each step in the process was made public. Therefore, the treaty is not the property of men in grey suits hiding in smoke-filled rooms. It is the creation of people like us and our counterparts across the Continent. In other words, it was parliamentarians from all across Europe who created the Lisbon treaty. It was created by parliamentarians and public representatives of all political colours doing what they do best, searching for agreement on matters of common concern that will serve the interests of the people they represent.

I say all this because there are people outside this House who try to dismiss the entire European Union reform process as an autocratic power grab. They ignore the evidence of 50 years of European solidarity and burden-sharing and try to pass it all off as part of an elaborate conspiracy theory. Can anyone really imagine that we would have spent the last ten years doing anything other than seeking to serve the best interests of our electorate? Can it be seriously believed that elected politicians would conspire to hand over authority to unelected bureaucrats, as some eurosceptics claim? Where is the evidence that the big member states have done a smash and grab job at the expense of smaller states like Ireland? If the Union is such a bad deal, where did the agricultural subsidies and structural funds come from?

Today, we have spent time discussing voting rights, qualified majority voting, double majority voting, co-decisions, the ordinary legislative procedure and the passerelle clause. It is true we need to look at these closely and, no doubt, we will need to spend time over the coming months explaining them to voters. However, let us not lose sight of reality. The reality is that the Union works best when it operates by consensus. Issues seldom go to a vote, and if they do, it is often a sign of poor chairmanship more than anything else. Indeed, for all the talk about losing the veto, we have only ever used it once and that was in the 1980s.

The European Union is, fundamentally, a democratic organisation, and let no-one say otherwise. The Lisbon treaty makes a democratic organisation even more democratic. As we have heard today, it gives more to us as national parliamentarians elected by the people. Our colleagues in the European Parliament are given a greater role too. The citizens, the people who elect us, will benefit from a new citizens initiative which will allow them to petition the institutions in Brussels, Luxembourg and Strasbourg on the issues that matter most to them. Citizens would also be given greater rights of access to the European Court of Justice.

What is so objectionable about giving power to the people and about bringing the institutions and decision-making process closer to the people we serve? The Lisbon treaty is based on equality between the member states. I know that because the treaty itself says so. It also sets out the Union's aims and values in a very clear manner. These include, respect for human dignity, freedom, democracy, the rule of law and respect for human rights. This is what the treaty says. Who can reasonably object to these aims? Is there anyone in this House who is ready to present himself or herself as the voice for opponents of dignity, freedom or democracy in the forthcoming campaign? Who will climb lamp-posts across the country to put up posters for the anti-human rights lobby?

The Union's aims are, according to the treaty, to "promote peace, its values and the well-being of its peoples". When voters are told that the European Union is a neo-liberal conspiracy, where is the evidence for that? The treaty states otherwise. It talks about a social market economy, full employment and social progress, combating social exclusion and social justice. Those who rattle on about the European Union's neo-liberal agenda should read the treaty, where they will discover a very different Union from the one their pet conspiracy theory conjures up.

It will be the responsibility of every Deputy in the House to ensure that the provisions in the Charter of Fundamental Rights on collective bargaining, protection in the event of unjustified dismissal, the right to fair and just working conditions, parental leave and rights on social security and assistance are not airbrushed out of this campaign. The charter will be given legal status by the treaty. Over the next few months, we should not let the eurosceptics prevent us from getting the message across about the horizontal social clause in the treaty. For the first time ever, the Union will be obliged to consider the social consequences of decisions when making policy. If the treaty is ratified, the Union's aims will include full employment and social progress.

The European Union is a force for good at home and abroad. It is the world's largest aid donor to the developing world, with the Commission and member states combined giving assistance worth €49 billion. The creation of a new post, the High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, would improve the Union's capacity to carry out its international responsibilities. This extends to the Union's peace support role. Indeed, Deputies will have noted the tribute paid by the United Nations Secretary General, Ban Ki-Moon, who hailed the European Union yesterday as one of the UN's most important partners. The European Union can also play a major role in global challenges such as climate change and the energy crisis. The Lisbon treaty gives us the tools we need to deliver on these issues.

This is a crucial time in the country's history for the next generation. We need to pass the Lisbon treaty to open up the possibilities it provides for new initiatives that will encourage the participation of young people in the democratic life of Europe. If we are to successfully address climate change, the energy crisis and the global recession, we need the talents of all, young and old, on board. Lisbon is the vehicle which can bring us all together more effectively and that can open up new horizons and new opportunities across the Continent.

I would like to comment on the issue of the German Constitutional Court judgment, which was raised today. It confirms what the Government has been saying about the Lisbon treaty. The German Constitutional Court states that the Lisbon treaty does not create an EU super-state, that the member states remain sovereign and are the masters of the European Union, that the European Union can only operate on the basis of the competences conferred on it by the member states and that member states retain control of areas such as tax and defence. The German court was completely satisfied that the treaty of Lisbon was fully in accordance with the German basic law.

The German court went on to say that domestic legislation would be required in advance of ratification of the treaty. It was anxious to ensure that the German Parliament exercises control over matters such as the use of the passerelle clause, enhanced co-operation and justice and home affairs, the very issues covered by subsections 7° and 8° of the Bill before the House today.

I appreciate the Chair's forbearance and tolerance and thank all Members for their contributions. The European Defence Agency Bill will be published shortly. The heads have gone to Government and it will be available well in advance of the date of the referendum.

On the workers' rights issue, in terms of the Laval and other judgments, it is important to note that these judgments are case and country specific. They could not arise in Ireland because we have a strong body of employment rights legislation, the national minium wage, registered employment agreements and employment regulation orders, all of which protect the rights of Irish workers. This is why the Laval judgment could not have happened in Ireland, so let us not spread confusion about this.

I appreciate all of the contributions that have been made. To conclude, ratification of the Lisbon treaty will strengthen Ireland's position within the Union and will be a significant factor in contributing to Irish economic recovery.

As it is now 10 p.m. I am obliged to put the following question in accordance with an order of the Dáil of this day: "Go léifear an Bille an Dara hUair anois." "That the Bill be now read a Second Time."

Cuireadh an cheist.

Question put.

Deputies

Votáil.

Will the Deputies claiming a division please rise?

Deputies Martin Ferris, Arthur Morgan, Coimhghín Ó Caoláin, Aengus Ó Snodaigh and Maureen O'Sullivan rose.

As fewer than ten Deputies have risen I declare the question carried. In accordance with Standing Order 68, the names of the Deputies dissenting will be recorded in the Journal of the Proceedings of the Dáil.

Faisnéiseadh go rabhtas tar éis glacadh leis an gceist.

Question declared carried.