Monday, 21 September 2009

Churches get off the fence on Lisbon

I am very encouraged to see such a well thought out statement on the Lisbon treaty coming from among others my own Church of Ireland - Well done! Not often we stick our heads above the parapet but this time it could not be more important and I am so relieved we have not fallen for the percieved need to be unbiased in matters political. Signs of leadership here! :-)
Statement follows:

Statement on the Second Lisbon Referendum by the European Affairs Working-Group of the Church of Ireland Church in Society Committee, the President of the Methodist Church in Ireland, the Methodist Council on Social Responsibility and Mr Alan Pim, Clerk of Ireland Yearly Meeting, Religious Society of Friends.

We urge voters to consider carefully the changed context in which Ireland finds itself following the rejection of the first referendum, and in the light of the Declarations of the European Council. These guarantees provide that Ireland will keep a commissioner, will remain in control of our own tax rates, will retain control over neutrality (no conscription and no defence alliances), over sensitive ethical issues such as abortion, and that workers’ rights and public services will be valued and protected in Ireland and across the Union . We therefore urge that serious consideration be given to the following questions. What impact would a negative Irish vote have on our partners in the Union when they have given legally binding guarantees? If we do not trust either the intentions of 26 partners, or the capacity of our government and EU representatives as members of the Union to negotiate in Ireland’s and the Union’s best interests, why remain in the Union? What are the implications of increasing isolation for Ireland’s future in the context of our current crisis?

* In the light of the Council’s assurances, there is a renewed opportunity to consider the core purpose of the treaty, which is to streamline the institutions of a Union designed initially for six partners. The complexity of the treaty is the direct result of long and exhaustive negotiation between all the member states, which needed to be satisfied that not only would the treaty make the Union more efficient but that its provisions in detail would not damage – on balance - their individual interests. Ireland took a leading role in that process. The Treaty contains important structural changes that will enhance democratic participation both by increasing the competence of the European Parliament and the roles of national parliaments. Thus the key question is whether the Union will function more efficiently, effectively and democratically as a consequence of adopting a treaty that our partners are satisfied will achieve these objectives. Outside the Union, how will another rejection by Ireland be viewed by potential investors or by aspiring member states, which will have to wait indefinitely until the Union is in a position to carry out the similar structural reforms to those proposed in the Treaty? That will be a long time coming if this treaty fails. The effect will be to deny to others the enormous benefits we have enjoyed since joining the Union.

* In a global context, faced with enormous trade, energy and environmental concerns, will we be better served by membership of a Union with improved internal structures and processes, or with a less effective Union of 27 members hampered by outmoded structures designed to cater for six members in 1956?

* For information on the Lisbon Treaty we refer readers to the publications of the Referendum Commission, .


Póló said...

Not sure I agree with you on this.

The statement you quote is very much a vote YES one.

The RC hierarchy, on the other hand, seem to have confined themselves to saying that there are no ethical or religious impedements to voting YES if that is what the voter wants to do.

I think the RC approach is as far as a Church should go in such a political matter.

Pete said...

Its not really a matter confined to politics though, its an economic issue & its a social issue too. Apart from all that a politics of fear has yet again risen up ( I have never seen so many massively inaccurate posters as I have seen recently about lisbon) around this issue, and in that light any body prepared to stand up a speak clearly should do so.

Joc Sanders said...

While a committed Yes voter myself, I would be more impressed by real leadership in calling us to protect the poor and vulnerable at home and overseas in this depression, and to respond effectively and justly to global warming.

Stephen Neill said...

Póló - No I don't subscribe to the keep church out of politics position - religion is personal but not private

Pete - Yes some of the posters are deceitful

Joc - Agreed but could we not have both?

Póló said...


While I accept that the Lisbon decision is multidimensional I don't think the churches should be taking sides in the debate. They can offer guidance in relation to moral issues, they can condemn unfair budgets if they are manifestly so, but taking sides on Lisbon goes beyond that. It is OK for them to say that the faithful are not obliged to vote for or against, but not to push for one vote or the other.

I welcome them coming out to that extent. It's a pity they didn't do that the last time round.

Stephen Neill said...

Bear in mind one of their key points was the potential exclusion of new states from the benefit of EU membership - yes a shame we were so quiet last time round.