Sarkozy call for second EU vote provokes storm in Ireland

12:29, 17 July 2008
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Irish voters dealt a blow to the European Union last month

Irish politicians reacted angrily Wednesday after French President Nicolas Sarkozy suggested Ireland should hold a second referendum on the EU`s new treaty, after rejecting it last month, according to AFP.

Irish voters dealt a blow to the European Union last month by rejecting the Lisbon Treaty in the only popular vote on the text anywhere in the 27-nation bloc.

According to deputies who attended a meeting with Sarkozy Tuesday, he said that the Irish would "have to re-vote", despite 53 percent opposition.

A key adviser to the French president said later on Wednesday that Sarkozy could ask Ireland to hold a second referendum on the document, but with some minor changes.

"One of the solutions would be indeed to eventually ask the Irish to re-vote, but probably not on a text that would be exactly the same," said Henri Guaino in an interview to French television.

"We`ll see," he added.

Guaino stressed that Sarkozy`s remarks, widely reported in the press, were "not an official statement from the president."

Sarkozy`s comments were described as "deeply insulting" by Sinn Fein`s Aengus O Snodaigh, who speaks for the party on international affairs. Sinn Fein was the only major political party in Ireland to oppose the Lisbon Treaty.

"In the month since the Irish people voted overwhelmingly to reject the Lisbon Treaty, we have listened to a succession of EU leaders lining up to try and bully and coerce us into doing what they want," O Snodaigh said.

"The fact is that the people have spoken and the Lisbon Treaty is dead."

He added that Sinn Fein had sought a meeting with Sarkozy when he visits Ireland Monday.

"It is important that President Sarkozy understands that the Irish people demand that our vote is respected and, more importantly, our concerns addressed," he said.

Even supporters of the Lisbon Treaty reacted badly to Sarkozy`s initiative.

Eamon Gilmore, leader of the opposition Labour Party which backed the treaty, told the Irish Independent that Sarkozy had apparently "seriously put his foot in it."

The French president should be told "in blunt terms" that Irish leaders needed time and space to consider their options, he added.

Irish Prime Minister Brian Cowen played down Sarkozy`s remarks during a visit to New York, the Irish Times reported, saying: "We (have) to acknowledge that there were many views across Europe about the problems we face after the rejection of the measure."

Foreign Affairs Minister Micheal Martin told Irish radio that Sarkozy would be in "listening mode" during his visit to Ireland.

"We`re not entertaining any prospect or any bullying from anybody," he said.

"We`ll be looking at it from an Irish perspective and what`s in the best interests of Ireland."

Aside from Ireland, parliaments in the Czech Republic, Sweden and Italy have yet to ratify while Polish President Lech Kaczynski this month said he would not sign the ratification, although he has since softened his stance.

Sarkozy set a deadline of the end of this year to resolve the impasse over Ireland`s `no` to the treaty, during a speech last week to the European parliament.


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