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Posted 09 March 2009

New study confirms the importance of Ireland retaining an EU Commissioner, says Minister for Foreign Affairs

The Minister for Foreign Affairs, Micheál Martin, T.D., has announced the publication of an additional report by Professor Richard Sinnott and a team from the UCD Geary Institute on voting behaviour in the Lisbon Treaty referendum.

The report sheds further light on the reasons behind last year’s referendum result. It highlights public concern at the time that Ireland would lose its right to a European Commissioner.

Commenting on the report, Minister Martin said that "Ireland has now secured an important agreement which responds directly to various public concerns that are highlighted in Professor Sinnott’s study.

We now have a clear choice to make regarding Irish membership of the European Commission. If the Lisbon Treaty enters into force, the Commission to be appointed later this year and all future Commissions will have an Irish member. This concession to Ireland deals with a key reservation that Irish people had about the Lisbon Treaty last year.

In addition, we are to receive legally-binding guarantees in the areas of taxation, defence and neutrality and on certain provisions of our Constitution relating to the right to life, education and the family.

Our European partners are ready to give us the legal guarantees we require. This amounts to a very significant European response to the verdict of the Irish people last June. When these legal guarantees are finalised, they will provide a highly positive basis for a referendum later in the year," Minister Martin said.

The report, prepared by Professor Richard Sinnott, Professor of Political Science, University College Dublin (UCD) and a team from UCD’s Geary Institute, indicates that a prime concern was that there should always be an Irish member of the European Commission, with 80% of Irish people believing this to be an important issue.

The report also points to the impact of fears about conscription, Ireland’s control over its corporation tax and interference with our policy on abortion. It also indicates that the positive Irish attitude to the EU was the strongest single factor affecting those who voted Yes. Professor Sinnott’s report also shows that a low level of knowledge about Europe and about the Treaty made people more likely to abstain or to vote No.

Minister Martin said that "The Government has learned lessons from the last referendum. We are embarking on a new drive to communicate the facts about Ireland’s EU membership clearly and honestly to the Irish people. I am determined that the myths and half truths about the EU will be answered by means of straight and honest facts about our membership and its benefits. It is time for the truth about Ireland’s role and future in Europe to shine through so that it can be more widely recognized."


A research team from the UCD Geary Institute led by Richard Sinnott and including Jos Elkink, Kevin O’Rourke (TCD) and James McBride, was engaged by the Department of Foreign Affairs to assist with the design and analysis of the Government-commissioned, Millward Brown IMS research into the reasons underlying the result of the Lisbon Treaty referendum.

On 10 September 2008, the Minister published the Millward Brown IMS report which formed an important input to the Government’s analysis of the best way forward for Ireland.

Professor Sinnott and his colleagues at the Geary Institute in UCD have now completed additional analysis and interpretation of the quantitative data. This research is based not only on the quantitative dataset produced by the Millward Brown IMS, but also draws on other sources, including Eurobarometer surveys, opinion polls, and General Election and other referendum results.

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Minister for Foreign Affairs says "new study confirms the importance of Ireland retaining an EU Commissioner"