Irish Independent
By Dearbhail McDonald Legal Editor

Lisbon ‘No’ may spark end of votes on treaties

EUROPEAN treaties could be ratified by a parliamentary vote instead of a referendum under new legal reforms.

Following the defeat of the Lisbon Treaty the Oireachtas Joint Committee on the Constitution is reviewing the entire referendum process.

It will examine whether a referendum is required to amend the Constitution every time a new EU treaty is agreed or if treaties could be passed by parliamentary vote.

The committee yesterday said the Lisbon Treaty defeat had served as “a catalyst” for the review. It will also examine whether the bulk of future EU treaties can be ratified by parliament, leaving only specific constitutional issues — if they arise — to be placed before the electorate. Committee chairman Sean Ardagh TD denied the purpose of the review was to “change the rules” in the wake of a series of the failed Lisbon and Nice campaigns.

“That isn’t the case,” said Mr Ardagh. “There is a perceived difficulty in Ireland generally in relation to [constitutional] referenda. This review will provide an invaluable opportunity to consider all the factors from all perspectives and we are committed to ensuring that a broad range of views are represented.

“The committee will then be in a position to express its own opinion on the constitutional referendum process which will be presented to the Houses of the Oireachtas and the Government.”

Mr Ardagh said the chances of the electorate agreeing to the treaty proposal were “very limited indeed” and any reform would be subject to oversight by the Supreme Court. The Joint Committee is also seeking submissions on the manner in which information is imparted during campaigns.

A final report on the referendum process will be presented next April, ahead of the European elections and a possible Lisbon Treaty referendum re-run in October 2009. The committee will not advertise in national newspapers for submissions

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