Léim ar aghaidh chuig an bpríomhábhar

Dáil Éireann díospóireacht -
Wednesday, 21 Oct 2009

Vol. 692 No. 3

European Union Bill 2009: Second Stage.

I move: "That the Bill be now read a Second Time."

It is an honour for me to introduce this Bill. The purpose of the Bill is to amend the European Communities Act 1972 in order to give effect to the relevant provisions of the Lisbon treaty in the domestic law of the State, and to provide for related matters. The provisions necessary to enable the State to meet its obligations under the treaty must be enacted into domestic law before the treaty enters into force.

The people of Ireland voted by a majority of 67.1% to 32.9% on a turnout of 59% on 2 October to approve the proposal to amend the constitution in the 28th Amendment of the Constitution (Treaty of Lisbon) Bill 2009. That Bill has now been enacted, having been signed into law by the President on 15 October. On 8 October, this House approved the terms of the Treaty of Lisbon in accordance with the terms of Article 29.5.2° of the Constitution, and on 16 October the President signed the instrument of ratification. The ratification process will be complete when the instrument of ratification is deposited with the Italian Government, in accordance with Article 6 of the treaty, and the Government proposes to do so before the European Council which begins on 29 October.

At the European Council in December 2008, the Government committed itself to seeking ratification of the Treaty of Lisbon by the end of the term of the current European Commission. The Commission's mandate expires at the end of this month. The treaty will enter into force on the first day of the month, following which all member states will have lodged their instruments of ratification with the Italian Government. Twenty five of the 27 member states have already completed the ratification process. Two countries are outstanding, namely, Ireland and the Czech Republic. If all instruments are lodged by the end of this month, the treaty would enter into force on 1 November.

When the treaty comes into force, the legally binding guarantees secured by the Government in June on taxation, the protection of the right to life, the family, education and Ireland's traditional policy of military neutrality will also enter into force. The legally binding guarantees are in the form of a decision of the Heads of State or Government of the 27 member states of the European Union, meeting within the European Council. This decision will have the status of an international agreement. The decision, the solemn declaration on workers' rights, social policy and other issues and the national declaration by Ireland on security policy have been annexed to the instrument of ratification which will be deposited with the Italian Government.

In addition, the legally binding decision will be registered with the United Nations when the treaty enters into force. The European Council also agreed in June that the decision, which deals with the legally binding guarantees on taxation, with the protection of the right to life, the family and education and with our traditional policy of military neutrality, will be annexed to the Treaty on European Union and to the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union as a protocol, at the time of the next accession treaty. Protocols form an integral part of the treaties and in legal terms, they have treaty status.

On Friday, 2 October, the Irish people issued an emphatic confirmation of Ireland's European vocation. A total of 1,214,268 citizens voted in favour of the Lisbon treaty. No other European treaty has ever received as many votes in favour in an Irish referendum. The referendum result has given new momentum to Ireland's economic recovery and it will infuse the Union with renewed confidence in our ability to continue delivering for our citizens. The people of Ireland made a democratic decision on the Lisbon treaty. After a hard-fought referendum campaign with real engagement on all sides, and in which its merits were thoroughly debated, they decided overwhelmingly to approve the treaty. The fact that such an emphatic "Yes" vote was delivered underlines the commitment of the people to the European Union and also the determination of the Government and the main Opposition parties to maintain Ireland's position as a positive and constructive member state at the heart of the Union.

The legally-binding guarantees secured by the Government in June that addressed the Irish people's concerns on taxation, ethical questions and our traditional policy of military neutrality, taken together with the new commitment on the Commissioner and the solemn declaration on workers' rights, were crucial to the outcome. The European Union delivered for Ireland in June and the people endorsed the new package. The Union works best when it listens to and accommodates the concerns of individual member states. I am grateful to our European colleagues for their positive and constructive response to the Irish people's concerns. The Government worked hard to explain the treaty and to demonstrate to voters that the concerns expressed last year were comprehensively addressed. However, I want to acknowledge that the referendum success was the result of a collective effort involving almost all members of this House, trade unions, employers, farming organisations and a wide cross section of civic society representing all generations. I want to put on record my appreciation for the tremendous work during the campaign by all concerned.

It would be remiss of me not to acknowledge here the work of the Sub-Committee on Ireland's Future in the European Union. The work of the sub-committee and the sub-committee's recommendations were key elements in the strategy which brought us to the fortunate position we are in today. I believe that the Lisbon treaty will help bring clarity to the direction and workings of the Union and should also help address the democratic deficit many people have identified.

Before I turn to the Bill itself, it is worth recalling in brief the main provisions of the Lisbon treaty. The foundations of European Union stretch back to the European Coal and Steel Community, established almost 60 years ago. Ireland joined the process in 1973. The Union is made up of 27 member states and operates on the basis of an agreed set of rules, which are the EU treaties. These are the basic legal documents of the Union. Changes to these treaties have been agreed by the member states from time to time to update them to meet Europe's changing needs. The Lisbon treaty is the latest proposed update of the European Union's operating rules. It was signed by the Heads of State and Government of the European Union in December 2007.

The treaty sets out the nature of the European Union, its objectives and values. It states that the Union's aims are to promote peace and the well-being of its peoples. The treaty states that the Union can act only within the limits of the competences given to it by the member states. It proposes some changes to the operation of the Union's institutions. These include the European Parliament, the body directly elected by citizens that makes laws for the Union, the Council of Ministers, made up of the representatives of member state governments, and the European Commission, a body with one person from each member state, which proposes draft EU laws. The Lisbon treaty also gives formal institutional status to the European Council, which brings together the Heads of State and Government of the member states. The treaty also simplifies the Union's structures and operation, something that I will explain later.

The treaty proposes new competences for the Union in areas such as energy, tourism, sport and humanitarian assistance. The treaty also proposes to make the Charter of Fundamental Rights a part of EU law. The charter sets out the fundamental rights — including workers' rights — of European citizens. It will oblige the Union, when implementing its policies and activities, to take into account the promotion of a high level of employment and the guarantee of adequate social protection. It will give a new role to national Parliaments, including Oireachtas Éireann, in the European law-making process. The treaty will give more responsibility to the directly-elected European Parliament. It will streamline the voting system under which some future EU decisions will be taken and make EU decision-making easier in the fight against cross-border crime.

The treaty will make specific provision for the first time for EU action to combat climate change, which is one of today's major global challenges. It will give the Union a greater capacity to prevent and resolve conflicts in other parts of the world by providing for the appointment of a full-time president of the European Council and for a new high representative for foreign affairs and security policy, whose responsibility will be to give the Union a clearer voice in international affairs.

When the people voted at the beginning of the month, they affirmed Ireland's commitment to the European Union within which the member states of that Union work together to promote peace, shared values and the well-being of their peoples. The Lisbon treaty is the culmination of a process which began nearly ten years ago when the Heads of State and Government of the 27 member states declared that the Union needed to come closer to its citizens and become more responsive to their needs and expectations.

The European Union Bill 2009 will give effect to the relevant provisions of the treaty in Irish law and in so doing, will ensure that the Union can work with the member states to promote the well-being of the people and to respond to their needs and expectations. The Bill is necessary to amend the European Communities Act 1972 in order to give effect to the relevant provisions of the treaty in the domestic law of the State, and to provide for related matters. The content of the Bill is in line with earlier amendments of the European Communities Act 1972, through which provisions of previous EU treaties have been given domestic legal effect. The Bill also takes account of the fact that the treaty confers explicit legal personality on the European Union and makes certain institutional and terminological changes. The Bill provides for the conferral of the new powers on the Houses of the Oireachtas under the terms of the treaty which I mentioned earlier. In addition, the Bill provides for the continuation in domestic law of certain statutory instruments giving effect to EU directives, regulations or decisions.

The Bill is relatively short, containing only nine sections, most of them technical in nature. Section 1 provides that the "Act of 1972" means the European Communities Act 1972, that "European Union" and "treaties governing the European Union" have the same meaning as they have in the 1972 Act and that "Minister" means the Minister for Foreign Affairs. Section 2 then goes on to insert into section 1 of the 1972 Act definitions of "European Union" the "Lisbon treaty" and "treaties governing the European Union". These are the Treaty on European Union, the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union, the Lisbon treaty and the treaties currently governing the European Communities, excluding provisions of the EU's common foreign and security policy, in respect of which the Court of Justice of the European Union will not have jurisdiction.

Section 3 amends section 2 of the Act of 1972, which sets out the EU legal instruments that are binding on the State and part of domestic law. It provides that once the Lisbon treaty enters into force the treaties governing the European Union, the acts of the institutions of the European Communities in force prior to the entry into force of the Lisbon treaty, the acts of the institutions of the European Union and acts of bodies competent under the treaties shall be binding on the State and part of domestic law, with the exception of the non-justiciable acts adopted under the provisions relating to the EU's common foreign and security policy in respect of which the Court of Justice of the European Union will not have jurisdiction.

Under the existing treaties, there are three broad areas or "pillars" of EU activity. The first area broadly covers economic and social policy. The second area relates to the common foreign and security policy and the third covers justice and home affairs. The Lisbon treaty provides for a European Union with explicit legal personality that will replace the European Community established by the Treaty of Rome and the old Union established by the Treaty of Maastricht.

Since the Treaty of Maastricht, the situation in Ireland has been that only those elements that relate to the European Communities or were otherwise justiciable before the European Court of Justice should form part of the domestic law of the State. Therefore, the inter-governmental second and third pillars were excluded. The confusing distinctions between the European Community and the European Union are to be abolished by the Lisbon treaty. The three pillars will be merged, but special arrangements will continue to apply in the case of the common foreign and security policy. There will be limited involvement by the European Parliament, the European Commission and the ECJ in this area. In line with our existing practice, the provisions of the Lisbon treaty in this area are not being brought by the Bill into domestic law, except where the ECJ will have power with regard to persons, bodies or companies that are subject to EU sanctions — a welcome innovation introduced by the Lisbon treaty — or in respect of the boundary between the common foreign and security policy and other areas of Union competence. As the Lisbon treaty provides for a European Union with an explicit legal personality, which will replace the current European Community, section 3 provides that Acts of the current Communities will be carried over and remain valid in the new arrangements. The European Atomic Energy Community is legally distinct from the European Community and European Union, although they are served by common institutions. The treaty establishing the European Atomic Energy Community, the EURATOM treaty, will survive the entry into force of the Lisbon treaty. It comes within the definition in section 3 of treaties which will be binding on the State and part of Irish law when the Lisbon treaty enters into force. Ireland, along with Germany, Austria, Hungary and Sweden, made a declaration annexed to the final Act of the 2007 Inter-Governmental Conference noting that the core provisions of the EURATOM treaty have not been substantially amended since its entry into force and need to be brought up to date. The Government continues to favour an extensive review of the EURATOM treaty, leading to a significant updating of its provisions.

Section 4 of the Bill amends section 3 of the European Communities Act 1972 by updating the references to treaties and acts of the EU in respect of which it is permissible in implementing regulations to provide for indictable offences. There is no substantive change in this area.

They should not be there in the first place.

I know, but they are there. Section 5(1) provides that references in enactments other than the Bill and the 1972 Act to the European Communities shall be construed as including references to the European Union. Section 5(2) provides that references to the treaties governing the European Communities shall be construed as references to the treaties governing the European Union. Section 5(3) provides that references in any enactment to the treaty establishing the European Economic Community or the treaty establishing the European Community shall be construed as references to the treaty on the functioning of the European Union. This takes account of a provision in the Lisbon treaty to the effect that the Treaty of Rome, which is currently formally called the treaty establishing the European Community and prior to Maastricht was called the treaty establishing the European Economic Community, will henceforth be called the treaty on the functioning of the European Union. Is that clear? Section 5(4) provides that "enactment" shall include a statutory instrument.

Section 6 of the Bill amends section 1 of the European Union (Scrutiny) Act 2002 by updating the definition of "measure" to take account of terminological changes consequent on the entry into force of the Lisbon treaty. The change in title of the Treaty of Rome has been reflected in paragraph (a). Paragraph (b) reflects the fact that the different types of legal instruments used in the existing second pillar — joint actions and common positions — are replaced by a joint legal act used across all areas of the Union’s activities, to be known as a “decision”. Accordingly, a “joint action adopted under Article 14 of the Treaty on European Union” and a “common position adopted under Article 15 of the Treaty on European Union” will become a “decision adopted under Article 28 or 29 of the Treaty on European Union.” Paragraph (c) reflects the fact that the constitutional amendment facilitating the ratification of the Lisbon treaty has simplified and updated the provisions of the Constitution relating to our membership of the Union, by replacing the wording in the 2002 Act, which refers to “a measure requiring the prior approval of both Houses of the Oireachtas pursuant to Article 29.4.6° of the Constitution” with a new wording, which refers to “an act ..... requiring the prior approval of both Houses of the Oireachtas pursuant to subsection 7° or 8° of Article 29.4 of the Constitution”. These are the provisions in the Constitution which require the prior approval of both Houses of the Oireachtas to be obtained before the State can participate in certain EU measures, including acts adopted under the area of freedom, security and justice.

Section 7(1) of the Bill provides for the operation of the new powers of the Houses of the Oireachtas under the terms of the treaty. These powers will allow either of the Houses, by means of a resolution, to object to a proposal to move from unanimity to qualified majority voting in the Council of Ministers, or a move from a special legislative procedure to the ordinary legislative procedure provided for under Article 48.7 of the Treaty on European Union, as amended by the Lisbon treaty. This is the so-called general passerelle, or bridging, clause. The ordinary legislative procedure involves an equal decision-making role for the Council of Ministers and the European Parliament in the adoption of regulations, directives and decisions. It requires the Council to operate by qualified majority and the Parliament to operate by a simple majority of those voting. However, if unanimity is required in the Council, or the Parliament has a lesser role in the decision making process, this is known as a special legislative procedure. Section 7(1) complements the provisions of the new Article 29.4.8° of the Constitution, which requires the prior approval of the Houses of the Oireachtas before the State can agree to any change under Article 48.7 of the Treaty on European Union. Such agreement would, de facto, be expressed by the Taoiseach on behalf of the State at a meeting of the European Council.

Section 7(2) of the Bill provides for a similar power with respect to a proposal to move to the ordinary legislative procedure in relation to family law matters with cross-border implications under Article 81.3 of the treaty on the functioning of the European Union. The prior approval of the Houses of the Oireachtas is required in this area under Article 29.4.8° of the Constitution. As this matter falls within the area of freedom, security and justice, the prior approval of both Houses of the Oireachtas would be also required under the new Article 29.4.7° of the Constitution in accordance with Ireland's opt-in arrangement under Protocol No. 21 to the treaties.

The veto mechanism provided for in sections 7(1) and 7(2) of the Bill is known colloquially as the "red card." Article 6 of Protocol No. 2 to the treaties on the application of the principles of subsidiarity and proportionality provides that if at least one third of national parliaments in the European Union issue reasoned opinions on a draft legislative act's non-compliance with the principle of subsidiarity, the draft must be reviewed. The threshold is one quarter in the case of draft legislative acts submitted in the area of freedom, security and justice. The institution proposing the legislative act, which is normally the Commission, may decide to maintain, amend or withdraw the act. It must give reasons for such a decision. This mechanism is known as the "yellow card." If the draft legislative act is made under the ordinary legislative procedure, and if a simple majority of national parliaments issue reasoned opinions on non-compliance with the principle of subsidiarity, the Commission must justify any decision to maintain the proposal in a reasoned opinion submitted to the Council and the European Parliament. This procedure is known as the "orange card." The principle of subsidiarity means that in areas where the member states and the European Union share a competence, action may be taken only at Union level where this is deemed likely to be more effective than action taken at national or regional level. The mechanism for the exercise of the "yellow card" and the "orange card" is the same and is provided for in section 7(3), which states that either House may issue a reasoned opinion on whether EU legislative proposals comply with the principles of subsidiarity in accordance with Article 6 of Protocol No. 2. The consequence of an orange card, rather than a yellow card, is more stringent. If the Commission wishes to proceed with its proposal, the European Parliament and the Council of Ministers are obliged to consider both the opinions of the national parliaments and the Commission's justification before deciding to proceed with or terminate their consideration of the proposal.

Section 7(4) of the Bill covers acts, rather than draft legislative acts, of an institution of the European Union. It provides that if either of the Houses of the Oireachtas gives a reasoned opinion to the Minister for Foreign Affairs that an act of the EU institutions infringes the principle of subsidiarity, the Minister shall arrange for proceedings seeking a review of the act concerned to be brought in the Court of Justice of the European Union in accordance with Article 8 of Protocol No. 2. Section 7 will form the basis for the new role of the Houses of the Oireachtas in the European law-making process. This new role is proof, if it were needed, that the Lisbon treaty will make the Union more, not less, democratic. It is not proposed to make provision in this legislation for broader questions, such as Oireachtas scrutiny of draft European Union legislation or the transposition of directives. The Government is of the view that it would not be possible to deal with these issues adequately within the tight timeframe available. It accepts that these issues will need to be dealt with at a later stage, when it has had time for a proper consultation process.

Section 8 deals with the implementation in Irish law of EU codification directives, which are a relatively new phenomena. Such directives repeal pre-existing directives in a particular subject matter and consolidate them with a view to making the EU legal system more transparent and easier to understand. This process mirrors the steps being taken at domestic level to consolidate the Statute Book. Section 8 provides that statutory instruments giving effect in domestic law to acts of the EU institutions, which have been repealed and replaced by codifying acts of such institutions that do not materially modify the rights or obligations conferred by the repealed acts, will have effect as if they had been made for the purpose of giving effect to the codifying acts concerned. The provision is confined to EU codification directives which do not change existing law. The Government is committed to mirroring at domestic level the simplification being carried out by the EU. Therefore, Departments, as a matter of policy, will be expected to prepare codifying statutory instruments to ensure transparency. This technical provision will avoid the possibility of opening up lacunae in the enforcement of our EU obligations, pending the making of such statutory instruments.

The effect of section 9 is that section 8 on EU codification directives will come into force on the enactment of this Bill, but the rest of the provisions will not come into force until I sign a commencement order, which I will do as soon as the date of entry into force of the treaty becomes clear. The Act must come into effect on the same date as the treaty enters into force. As I have said, this could be as early as next week.

These are the provisions of the Bill. Now that the entry into force of the treaty is within sight, I would like to indicate to the House some of the next steps as we move towards implementation. In his statement on the outcome of the referendum, the Taoiseach stated:

The European Union is shaped by its peoples and nations to serve its peoples and nations. Today's vote is a declaration of intent by the people of Ireland to remain at the heart of Europe, where our future belongs.

With that in mind, the Government is committed to pushing for the early adoption at EU level of the necessary procedures and conditions necessary for the citizens' initiative provided for by the treaty and the Government will take any steps at domestic level that might be necessary on foot of this.

Deputies will recall that, under the new citizens' initiative, at least 1 million citizens who are nationals of a significant number of member states will be able to invite the Commission to submit proposals on a matter within its competence. This is an important and welcome development under the treaty and putting it into place is a priority for the Government.

If there is sufficient clarity in the coming days on the intentions of the President of the Czech Republic, the European Council will discuss institutional issues, including the implementation of the treaty. Consideration will have to be given to two new high-level appointments, namely the President of the European Council and the High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy. In addition, the Irish member of the European Commission will need to be appointed and the Government is currently considering this.

After intensive contacts and negotiations, the European Council in December 2008 defined a path to allow the treaty to enter into force by the end of 2009. The Council agreed that, provided the treaty enters into force, a decision will be taken to the effect that the Commission will continue to include one national per member state. This represented a clear and positive response to a key concern that arose in last year's referendum.

Once the Lisbon treaty enters into force, we will be sure to have an Irish Commissioner at the Commission table. However, if the ratification process is not completed and the Nice treaty remains in force, the size of the Commission will be reduced and no country, including Ireland, can be guaranteed a place at the table indefinitely.

The Lisbon treaty will simplify and stabilise the Union's external representation. One of the key elements in this area is the establishment under the treaty of two important new positions which are relevant to the foreign policy area. The European Council brings together the Heads of State or Heads of Government of the 27 member states and it defines the Union's general political direction and guidelines for the common foreign and security policy. Within these guidelines, the Council of Ministers adopts decisions on actions and positions to be taken by the Union, and any necessary implementation arrangements.

The President of the European Council will hold office for a two-and-a-half-year period and may be re-elected once. The President will chair the European Council and drive forward its work. His or her role is not confined to external relations but, on the external front, he or she will represent the Union in foreign policy matters at Head of State or Head of Government level.

The High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy will chair meetings of Foreign Ministers and represent the Union generally in the foreign and security policy area. This new post will improve the interaction and coherence between the Council and the Commission in that the high representative will be also a vice-president of the Commission with responsibility for external relations. The high representative will be able to make proposals on the common foreign and security policy and elaborate the Union's external action on the basis of the strategic guidelines laid down by the European Council.

In representing the Union externally, the high representative will play a key role, for example, in political dialogue with third countries and at international conferences and in international organisations. He or she will be assisted — this is a considerable innovation — by a European external action service which will have a presence in both Brussels and third countries. The European external action service will include staff seconded from national diplomatic services of the member states in addition to officials currently serving in the Commission and General Secretariat of the Council. Implementation of the treaty's provisions on the European external action service will be discussed at the European Council next week and consideration is under way in my Department of the proposed structure of the service and on optimising the Irish profile within it.

More generally, the Government is looking at a renewed strategy for engagement with the European Union with a view to maximising Ireland's influence on EU laws and policies. This strategy will include support for the employment of Irish personnel in EU institutions and bodies.

The Lisbon treaty puts the European Defence Agency, which was established during the Irish Presidency in 2004, on a treaty basis for the first time. The purpose of the agency is to assist and support the member states to develop the necessary capabilities to undertake peace support and crisis management operations.

Participation in specific European Defence Agency projects is entirely voluntary and is for national decision on a case-by-case basis. The legally binding guarantee on our traditional policy of military neutrality secured by Ireland in June provides that it is a matter for each member state to decide, in accordance with the provisions of the treaty and any domestic legal requirements, whether to participate in the European Defence Agency.

The Defence (Miscellaneous Provisions) Bill 2009, which was published last month and brought before the House by my colleague the Minister for Defence last week, makes it clear that Irish participation in European Defence Agency programmes will be subject to the prior approval of both the Government and Dáil Éireann. It also provides that the Government will not approve participation unless it is satisfied that such participation would contribute to the enhancement of capabilities for UN-mandated missions in peace-keeping, conflict prevention or the strengthening of international security in accordance with the principles of the Charter of the United Nations. Similar conditions pertain to any possible participation by Ireland in permanent structured co-operation.

I hope that, with the passage of this Bill, we will be able to turn a page and move on from protracted discussions on institutional issues and focus our efforts on issues of direct consequence and relevance to the citizens of the Union. I have in mind issues such as climate change, energy security and the global economic crisis. The Lisbon treaty gives the Union the tools it needs to tackle big-ticket issues such as these, issues that are beyond the scope and competence of Ireland alone. EU membership continues to be vital to our future and ratification of the Lisbon treaty represents an important step we can take on the road to national recovery.

I recall what Mr. Jack Lynch said in April 1972, namely, that the decision to be taken in our referendum on European Economic Community membership in the future "would be recorded either as an unprecedented opportunity which we choose to grasp with incalculable gain or which we choose to throw away with irreparable loss".

The decision taken by the people at the beginning of this month to ratify the treaty of Lisbon and to renew our commitment to the European Union was the right decision and it was of comparable significance to the sovereign decision taken by the people, almost half a century ago, on the eve of our accession to the then European Economic Community. The Bill before us gives effect to the wishes of the people, as expressed on 2 October. I look forward to today's debate and commend the Bill to the House.

I wish to share my time with Deputy Pat Breen.

Fine Gael welcomes the publication of this Bill and the debate thereon. We support it wholeheartedly. Having listened to the Minister's contribution, I can understand how the public finds it so difficult to engage with EU issues. So many of the issues are technical, but my saying so is no reflection on the Minister.

The European Union Bill 2009 fulfils the requirement to give domestic effect to the Lisbon treaty. It is mainly an administrative measure and is similar to the legislative instruments passed in the aftermath of the Nice treaty ratification in 2006. The Bill provides for a number of measures independent of giving domestic effect to the treaty, including providing the mechanism for increased parliamentary oversight of European affairs provided for in the treaty and the mechanism designed to allow statutory instruments implementing EU measures to have continued effect where a measure has been repealed and replaced.

The process for adopting EU treaties into the Irish legal order has two distinct strands, international ratification and domestic integration. The objective of sections 2 and 3 of the European Union Bill 2009 is to update the European Communities Act 1972 to take account of the State's ratification of the Lisbon treaty. An identical procedure was followed in the wake of the ratification of the Maastricht, Amsterdam and Nice treaties. The only difference in this case is that the European Union now has legal personality. In other words, it will be the subject of international law after the ratification of the Lisbon treaty. There is a slight difference in terminology in this instance. The Bill refers to the European Union established by virtue of the Lisbon treaty and the European Atomic Energy Community throughout.

The key part of the Bill implies that the European Communities Act 1972 is updated so both the foundational treaties and the Acts of the institutions shall be binding on the State and be part of the domestic law thereof. This part of the Bill therefore completes the integration of the Lisbon treaty into the domestic legal order.

Section 4 makes a technical amendment to the European Communities Act 1972. Section 3 of that Act had originally provided authorisation to Ministers to make regulations deemed necessary to give full effect to the adoption of European law into the domestic law of the State. However, the original section precluded Ministers from introducing indictable offences by way of this secondary legislative regime. Section 4, like section 2 of the European Communities Act 2007, will allow any Minister to create an indictable offence by regulation if he or she feels the State's European obligations require the creation of the offence. I ask the Minister to clarify this matter when he replies to this debate.

Section 6 updates the definition of "measure". Section 7 deals with the role of the Oireachtas. Advocates of the Lisbon treaty argued that one of the benefits of the treaty was its promotion of parliamentary oversight at member state level. In principle the treaty of Lisbon provides for three types of procedure according to which the treaties may be amended: the ordinary revision procedure; the simplified revision procedure; and what is known as the passerelle, or bridging, procedure, which the Minister dealt with extensively in his speech.

Section 8 provides that statutory instruments that give effect in domestic law to Acts of the EU institutions that have been repealed and replaced by codifying Acts shall have effect as if they had been made for the purpose of giving effect to those codifying Acts. The section does not apply to primary legislation and only applies where no substantive change in the law has been made. Although substantially similar effects have been achieved in domestic legislation previously, owing to the European dimension, this is a unique provision in this Act.

Fine Gael welcomes this legislation. I thank the Minister for his Department's co-operation with Fine Gael and for the consultative meetings we had with him and the Taoiseach in the lead-up to the referendum campaign. I think it is no exaggeration to say that no one wants to hear the name Lisbon again.

Unless we are going there on holidays.

That would be subject to a freedom of information request.

Lessons can be learned from the first Lisbon referendum campaign. We should have learned them from the Nice referendum campaigns. Many people had legitimate concerns. Nevertheless, it is probable that more people — although not the largest percentage — voted for the Lisbon treaty than any other EU treaty. All of the political establishment, Government and Opposition, were blasé. We knew we had got things wrong in the Nice referendum but we assumed people would vote "Yes" because Irish people have a positive and strong sentiment about our involvement in Europe. They realise that Europe has been good for Ireland, economically and socially. Most of our progressive legislation has emanated from Brussels. The financial support we received in the 1970s, 1980s and early 1990s helped us to create the infrastructure which assisted in the creation of the Celtic tiger. Today, emergency funding, stimulus packages and access to funding from the European Central Bank all benefit the country.

The Oireachtas sub-committee which was established after the first Lisbon referendum based its sittings on the findings of the Milward Brown research. That research, while not inaccurate in the issues it raised, did not fully reflect the broader view of two aspects of the vote. First, people did not understand what Europe was about and, second, they did not know where Europe is going. One of our weaknesses is that no one can say where the European train will stop. My own view is that Lisbon is the final stop, with the exception of some enlargements. Institutional reform has taken place. There was always a fear of creeping federalisation and of a united states of Europe, which was never going to be the case and never will be. I do not believe there is the will or desire in Europe to create such a bloc. The only desire is to pool sovereignty where it is beneficial to everyone concerned.

The EU is probably the greatest example of a democratic institution on the planet. It is much more democratic than the Oireachtas, which is very undemocratic. Deputy Breen and I have been in opposition for a number of years, although this will, I hope, change. Even Deputies on the Government side of the House have very little input into legislation. This is evidenced by reports of last night's meeting of the Fianna Fáil parliamentary party, where many members favoured a particular course of action while the Minister decided on another. We must be more democratic, regardless of what side of the House one is on. Many good suggestions have come from Fine Gael, Labour and other parties but they are never adopted. One side does not have a monopoly of wisdom. We must look at amending our system so that everyone can have an input. The Oireachtas appears to consist of the Government and nothing else. People become detached from the process:

Full many a flower is born to blush unseen,

And waste its sweetness on the desert air.

I am sure the Minister, Deputy Martin, remembers that from his teaching days in Cork. People become weary making good suggestions because none is adopted.

Europe has been good for Ireland and I am glad the Minister has made a commitment to look at EU directives. One of my parliamentary colleagues expressed his concern to me at this weakness. We cannot simply leave the Lisbon debate and move on. We must engage with people continually and see how we can make them more involved.

I am glad to hear the Minister is committed to developing the citizens' initiative. When Fine Gael planned our recent referendum campaign, we looked at the weaknesses in the Lisbon treaty. We wondered how to explain the citizens' initiative and we were relieved that the "No" side did not home in on it. There is no structure to it or definition of how it will be done. Will it be possible to gather one million signatures or e-mails? Based on the number of e-mails Fine Gael received regarding the Government's NAMA proposals, it may not be too difficult.

Deputy Roche is constantly developing and expanding his capacity to receive e-mails.

The citizens' initiative must be made simple. It appears to me that it will be difficult for it to achieve a simple measure. I am glad to see the Minister intends to work on it.

Many objections to the Lisbon treaty were legitimate and based on real concerns. Others were based on misconceptions about neutrality, social and ethical issues and loss of control. Those arguments have been made over the past 35 years. They have not come to fruition and never will. It is easy to play on the public's emotional fears. I listened to Senator Rónán Mullen this morning as he pointed the finger at the "Yes" campaign as well as at the "No" campaign. There may be some truth in what he said. Some concepts were difficult to sell. Enhancing the role of national parliaments is one of the main measures of the Bill. The public climate for enhancing the role of national parliaments is not favourable and that was not a strong selling point. Many people want to pull down the national parliament, they are so annoyed at how things have gone.

There is one on Deputy Timmins's side with a view about the national parliament.

Yes, we are in the process of pulling down one side of it. During the campaign, we felt it was important to deal with what the treaty could achieve rather than its content. During the first referendum campaign we spent much time reflecting on and explaining the content of the treaty. People were not interested in that and found it hard to digest its difficult terminology. If the role of the national parliament is to be enhanced, it may be necessary to amend Standing Orders so that the procedures to be put in place can be seen. Let us keep it simple and provide a mechanism whereby the role of the national parliament can be enhanced. We do not want to stand here in three or four years time, wondering at various measures which passed into law without scrutiny because the Oireachtas knew nothing about them. We can no longer blame the Minister for a directive, such as the water directive, because the parliament will have the power to examine them. It behoves Members of the Oireachtas to pay more attention to what is going on.

Let me return to the question of using inaccurate information to play on the voters' emotions. I often wondered during the campaign whether there would be merit in setting up an electoral commission to consider the conduct of election campaigns and to produce a report on them. That is currently being examined by the Government and the Standards in Public Office Commission. While one battle might be won there will be other battles in the future. It is important that the public would know about the credibility of the various groups that participate in a campaign. Some of the information that was disseminated about the minimum wage was outrageous. Many people still probably hold such information to be valid. It is important that an independent body would pass judgment on campaigns. I include all sides; the "Yes" side, Fine Gael, Fianna Fáil and the Labour Party should all be subject to the same criteria. One can ask how accurate were the claims we made. The next time something is on the horizon people would be able to note what certain groups had said in the past. That would give rise to more responsible campaigning by all groups. We should examine that matter.

In the past year a great deal was written about the Lisbon treaty and I am sure members of the Government were confronted with that every time they went to Europe, but at the end of the day the issue went through silently. It slipped through with no great celebration or homecoming with a cup. We are very supportive of the legislation.

I alluded previously to section 4, which specifies that the Minister can create indictable offences by secondary legislation. Will he refer to that in his reply? When the European Communities Act 2007 was introduced, reservations were expressed by some speakers.

That issue was dealt with then and this provision is to update the position.

Is this legislation to bring that up to date?

The 1972 Act was updated by the 2007 legislation and this will do the same with the 2007 Act.

That is correct. It is nothing more or less than that. People who took certain positions in 2007 can hold them today also.

I thank my colleague, Deputy Timmins, for sharing time with me. As he and the Minister indicated, the Bill fulfils the legislative requirement to give domestic effect to the Lisbon treaty. It is primarily an administrative measure and is broadly similar to the legislative instruments passed in the immediate aftermath of the Nice treaty ratification in 2006.

The Bill also provides for a number of other measures independent of giving domestic effect to the treaty. Given the short timescales involved some minor provisions and sections are not discussed. Rather, the Bill's digest discusses the Bill around three principal themes. The first is to give domestic effect to the Lisbon treaty. We need the treaty to reform the institutions of the European Union. When the European Union was formed in 1957 there were six member states. It is obvious that a Union of 26 countries would require changes.

The European Union, then EEC, was set up following the Second World War. After the events of 11 September 2001 it was evident that the European Union would have a responsibility to fight against injustice and to ensure that global matters were settled peacefully rather than through war. The European Union decided that it was time that the then 25 member states would stand together on a global stage and be part of world events. The Union involves 500 million people working closely together in all areas, not just to maintain peace but also on economic matters. It is important that we have an ability to play a leading role in the new world order.

During the referendum campaign I used the analogy of a club to explain why we needed to ratify the treaty. No club of 27 people would agree on a single issue. Differences in language and culture also play a part. In any club one must have rules and regulations. The resounding support for the treaty on this occasion was in stark contrast to the situation of one year ago. One wonders if the Celtic tiger had continued whether the people of Ireland would have given a resounding "Yes" on this occasion also. Perhaps it was the reality of the recession that brought people to their senses and convinced them of how important Europe is to this country, how much it meant to us and how much we have got from it since we joined in the 1970s.

On this occasion the people gave a resounding "Yes" to the treaty. A total of 67.1% of people voted for it compared to 32.9% against. That is very different from the previous occasion when the "No" vote won by 53.4% to 46.6%. My own constituency of Clare played an important role in both campaigns. On both occasions we gave a resounding "Yes" to the treaty. In the second referendum on 2 October last the "Yes" vote increased. All parties played an important role during the campaign.

The referendum generated significant media interest in this country during the first week in October. There were 560 TV, radio and print journalists; not only from other EU countries but from as far away as China and Japan. Anyone with satellite television who watched it on 2 October could see that this country was at the forefront of the news on Euronews, France 24, al-Jazeera and others. They were camped outside awaiting the result. They did not have to wait for too long as the results came in early on Saturday morning. It was clear from early on that this country was going to endorse the Lisbon treaty on this occasion. I was at the count in Ennis where the tallymen got the correct result early on.

When canvassing on this occasion I found that people had a far clearer understanding of what is involved in the treaty. The political parties on the "Yes" side ran a very effective campaign second time around. I congratulate all those involved in the "Yes" campaign on how it was conducted. We canvassed at supermarkets and door to door. People were angry with the Government's mismanagement of the economy but they put that aside on this occasion because they felt that Europe was so important in helping us to get out of the recession. That shows how intelligent the electorate is and that people have a clear understanding of what is happening. A good campaign was run in the media also. It was a victory for democracy. Deputy Timmins was the Fine Gael director of elections. We played an important role in the campaign. The Minister, Deputy Martin, has acknowledged the role played by Opposition parties. We distributed over 1 million pieces of literature, held 40 meetings around the country, put up 25,000 posters and our party leader travelled more than 6,000 km and visited almost every constituency to promote a "Yes" vote.

The reason there was a substantial swing was partly due to the greater role played by the political parties. However, the legal guarantees that were negotiated by the Taoiseach and Minister and his team in Brussels were very important. Deputy Timmins referred to that and the Millward Brown research poll. Issues such as the retention of our EU Commissioner, the right to life and the fears that people had on the previous occasion that Irish people could be conscripted into an EU army were dispelled. We focused more on the positive aspects of the treaty. We all remember that in the previous referendum the "No" side depicted certain issues but on this occasion they did not succeed in convincing the people. The people we met at the doorsteps understood that the guarantees we secured in regard to Ireland's position were important.

The deterioration in our finances did not reflect a rejection in terms of the outcome even though more than 423,000 people are now unemployed. People understood that we cannot get out of this mess on our own, that we need Europe and to be at the heart of the Union.

The Declan Ganley factor in the campaign was important. He said he would not get involved in a second referendum following his failure to get elected in the European elections but then he became involved in the "No" side of the campaign at a late stage. The business people who got involved in the "Yes" side of the campaign played an important role. Love him or loathe him, the debate with Michael O'Leary on "Prime Time" was also an important factor. As a successful businessman, he, as well as others, came forward in support of the "Yes" side of the campaign. However, Mr. Ganley's entry into the race backfired on this occasion.

The "Yes" side was very organised. All sections of society including business people, trade unions such as SIPTU, former taoisigh, particularly a former Taoiseach and former leader of our party, Garret FitzGerald, played an important role on this occasion. That must be acknowledged. The fact that Garret FitzGerald, who is in his eighties and is still actively interested in the European project, shows his commitment to the European ideals.

There are lessons to be learned from the campaign. All political parties can learn lessons from the negative campaigning that took place. The "No" poster claiming that Ireland's minimum wage would be reduced to €1.84 per hour if the treaty was passed backfired. Such negative posters did not have a huge impact on the campaign on this occasion. I found that young people I met at the doorsteps were the only people who were concerned about that issue. However, that negative campaigning did not have an impact on the outcome.

We must also examine the reason almost 33% of people voted "No" in the referendum. We need to ask why the people in the two Donegal constituencies voted "No". What factors were different between Donegal and the other counties? People reflected on issues such as unemployment, the banking crisis and local issues.

The reality is that this treaty is good for Ireland. It is important that the EU is brought closer to the people. Proposed EU legislation will now be dealt with in the Houses of the Oireachtas, which we as legislators very much welcome. The Minister rightly pointed out that a yellow card system will apply.

The Minister also referred to the fact that people will be able to put a face to the European Union and he spoke about the role of the president of the EU. It is important for the Union to have a President. Up to now the European Presidency has been rotated every six months. During his four-year term of office, President Obama would meet eight different EU leaders under the current structure. It would be difficult to build up a relationship in that respect. We will now have a President of the EU and will be able to put a face to the Union. It is extremely important that the President of the EU will not be president of a country. The focus of the President will be the European Union representing the 27 countries. He or she will be elected for two and a half years and more than likely will continue in office for a second term, which would bring his or her term up to five years.

The other significant appointment is the High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy. Javier Solana held that office and during his term he has limited powers. It is extremely important that people can put a face to the person in Europe dealing with foreign policy.

The proposed European External Action Service is also important. Ireland has 76 embassies throughout the world. The UN recognises approximately 200 embassies. If a problem arises in a country in which we do not have an embassy, action can be taken speedily to address it because we are part of that system. That is extremely important.

I could speak about other relevant issues, particularly how the ratification process will move forward in terms of the Czech Republic. An EU summit will be held on 29 and 30 October. We have removed the largest obstacle to the ratification of the treaty and its ratification now lies in the hands of the European Union.

I welcome the Bill. I am confident it will get a speedy passage through this House.

I, too, welcome this legislation and the opportunity to speak on it. The main purpose of it is to give legal effect to the provisions of the Lisbon treaty and to provide for other related matters. We have to deal with the matter by amending the European Communities Act 1972.

As other speakers said, the Lisbon treaty was ratified by the Irish people on 2 October with a large turnout of 59% of the electorate and a strong "Yes" vote by two thirds of those who voted, namely 67% as against 33% who voted "No". That was very welcome and provided a strong indication of where people stood on this issue. It followed 15 to 16 months of soul searching, campaigning and analysis to reach that position. We must acknowledge that the campaign on this occasion was much different from that on the last occasion.

I congratulate the Minister for Foreign Affairs and the Minister of State with responsibility for European Affairs on the manner in which they were upfront in campaigning and led from the front on the issue, which was very welcome. I acknowledge all the other contributions made by the other Opposition parties, which campaigned very strongly, by the trade union movement, which strongly supported the campaign which was notable on this occasion, and by the farming community, which took an early strong robust position on the campaign. That support was topped off with the campaigns by various sectors of civic society. There is a lesson to be learned from that as to how we move forward in the future.

The European Council will hold a summit meeting on 29 and 30 October in Brussels. In this legislation the Government is tying up the loose ends to ensure that when the Taoiseach meets his EU colleagues next week he will have the instruments of ratification all ready to be deposited.

With regard to the Lisbon treaty, the legal guarantees on taxation, security and defence and the right to life, family and education, the declaration of workers' rights and the national declaration by Ireland make up the package of proposals which will be associated with Ireland's instrument of ratification. The Defence (Miscellaneous Provisions) Bill 2009, which is currently before the Dáil, spells out the restrictive terms for Ireland's participation in the European Defence Agency and in permanent structural co-operation. These are key new elements in the Lisbon treaty. The entire package is a unique blend. It contains substantial treaty issues, guarantees, assurances, a solemn declaration and a national declaration by Ireland.

Debate adjourned.
Sitting suspended at 1.30 p.m. and resumed at 2.30 p.m.