With just six weeks to go to the second Lisbon Treaty referendum, there was a real sense of vigour, urgency and determination amongst activists and members of the public who packed into Liberty Hall for the launch of the No to Lisbon 2 campaign.
Organised by the Campaign Against the EU Constitution, Tuesday’s meeting heard calls for a united left-wing campaign that would put a halt to the grand plans of the European Union’s political elite. The meeting was addressed by trade union activists from both Ireland and Britain as well as Irish political representatives and attended by over 150 people.
Jimmy Kelly, regional secretary of trade union Unite, denounced the European Court of Justice, which he said had savaged the principles of social justice and solidarity and eroded workers’ rights, subordinating them to the interests of business. Linking the erosion of workers’ rights with the Lisbon Treaty, Kelly contrasted the Twenty-Six County government’s refusal to legislate for free collective bargaining and statutory recognition of trade unions with the state’s swift response to end the occupation by workers at Thomas Cook and haul them before the courts. Pledging the full support of Unite, he called for a united left-wing campaign that would mobilise grassroots members of the trade union movement to take the message into workplaces and local communities.
Bob Crow, general secretary of the Rail Maritime and Transport Union, delivered an impassioned speech that denounced the principles upon which the Lisbon Treaty was constructed. Reminding the meeting that the Lisbon Treaty enshrines the principle of competition, the internal market and the policy of privatisation within the EU, he called for the unity of workers across Europe to defeat the neo-liberal agenda. The EU project as enunciated in Lisbon was about controlling labour and privatising public services; workers’ rights came second to the movement of free trade he said. Rejecting establishment attempts to label the No side as ‘anti-European isolationists’, Crow declared he was pro-European, pro-African, pro-American, pro-Asian but anti the European Union. Summing up, he argued that the Lisbon Treaty presented two options: a bosses’ Europe or a workers’ Europe and workers’ world. He pledged the support of his comrades in Britain and said the referendum in the Twenty-Six Counties offered an opportunity to re-ignite a European wide campaign.
There followed a lively discussion from the floor, during which a range of issues were debated. Workers’ rights, specifically the ongoing lock-out of workers at Dublin docks and the employment of scab labour, were of particular concern. The meeting was also addressed by Ed Horgan of the Irish Anti-War movement, who pointed out that the Twenty-Six County government has allowed 1.5 million US troops to pass through Shannon airport over the last eight years and is complicit in the killing of a million people in Iraq and Afghanistan, including 250,000 children.
éirígí spokesperson Daithí Mac An Mháistír, who attended the launch of the No campaign on Tuesday morning, called for the maximum effort from all activists over the coming six weeks.
“éirígí intends playing a full and active part in the campaign to defeat the bosses’ charter that is the Lisbon Treaty,” Daithí said.
“Already, our activists have been busy getting the message out. This referendum represents a blatant attack on democratic principles; regardless of the spin, it is the same Treaty.
“The economic model proposed by Lisbon has completely failed working class people. The antidote to the current jobs catastrophe facing workers is not an even stronger dose of neo-liberalism.
“This treaty must be defeated because the fact of it being put to referendum in the Twenty-Six Counties on October 2 represents a negation of democracy. This is the third time that the provisions contained in Lisbon will have been voted upon. On both previous occasions, it was defeated: the peoples of France and the Netherlands rejected the identical EU Constitution in 2005, and the people of the Twenty-Six Counties did likewise when the Lisbon Treaty re-incarnation of the EU Constitution was defeated by the votes of almost a million people in June 2008.
“Once again, the right to vote on the provisions of Lisbon has been denied to over 350 million European citizens. Indeed, éirígí has activists across the Six Counties who will, once again, be denied their say on a treaty that, if ratified, will utterly transform the economic, political and social character of the EU in a direction that is damaging to their interests. It is therefore incumbent upon all those who profess to believe in democracy to campaign to ensure that Lisbon is defeated once again.”