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(Oct 07, 2009) In a referendum held on October 2, 2009, the voters of Ireland ratified the Treaty of Lisbon – a European Union (EU) agreement that would make a number of significant changes to the EU's operational and decision-making procedures and powers – by a margin of approximately 67 percent in favor to 33 opposed. (28th Amendment Treaty of Lisbon II, ELECTIONSIRELAND.ORG, http
(last visited Oct. 3, 2009).) Ratification was strongly supported by the Government of Ireland, which had set up an independent Referendum Commission after the electorate had voted against the same treaty by a vote of approximately 46.5 to 53.5 percent in June of 2008. (Referendum Commission, The Lisbon Treaty, Lisbon Treaty 2009 website, http
; 28th Amendment Treaty of Lisbon I, ELECTIONSIRELAND.ORG, http
(both last visited Oct. 3, 2009).) Ireland is the only one of the 27 members of the EU that was legally required to hold a referendum on the Treaty, because its law requires amendments to the Irish Constitution to be submitted to the voters for approval. A bill to make the required changes to the Constitution had already been passed by the Dáil Éireann (the House of Representatives). (Twentieth Amendment of the Constitution (Treaty of Lisbon) Bill 2009, Bill No. 49a of 2009, Houses of the Oireachtas [Irish parliament] website, http
(last visited Oct. 3, 2009).)

The Treaty of Lisbon will establish a full-time president, create a diplomatic service, and give the EU additional powers to deal with such issues as climate change, energy security, cross-border trafficking, and crime. (Treaty of Lisbon, 2007 OFFICIAL JOURNAL OF THE EUROPEAN UNION (C 306) 1 (Dec. 17, 2007), available at The Treaty also gives the Charter of Fundamental Rights, which is attached to it, binding force. Major fears of the Irish voters who defeated the treaty in the first referendum were that if ratified, Ireland would lose its Commissioner, lose control over its agricultural policies, be forced to raise its low tax rates, and have its laws guaranteeing the right to life struck down by the European courts. (Leo Cendrowicz & Bryan Coll, Irish Ayes on Lisbon Treaty Have Europe Smiling, TIME, Oct. 3, 2009, available at http
.) Many voters also feared that Ireland would lose its traditional neutrality in foreign affairs. The Referendum Commission's response was that since 2008, the EU Council had agreed to include a Commissioner from Ireland until at least 2014; had issued a decision protecting Irish law and policy in such areas as the right to life, taxation, and security and defense; and had also issued a solemn declaration on workers' rights. The Commission noted that protocols addressing these matters are to be added to a later treaty to give them full force and effect. (Referendum Commission, Lisbon Treaty: Developments Since Last Referendum, Lisbon Treaty 2009 website, http
(last visited Oct. 3, 2009).)

Despite the post-2008 developments, opponents of the Treaty still contend that its ratification will result in Ireland's constitutional protections for the unborn to be struck down. Pro-life groups have argued that the EU's Charter will be interpreted to overrule any inconsistent provisions of the attached Treaty and that Ireland's anti-abortion laws will be challenged before the European Court of Justice. (Hilary White, Lisbon Will Force Abortion into Ireland Through EU Charter of Rights: Irish Pro-Life Lobby, LIFESITE NEWS, July 20, 2009, available at http

Most analysts seem to agree that a major factor in the turnaround in the voting on the Treaty of Lisbon from 2008 to 2009 was Ireland's deteriorating economic condition. With many economic indicators falling in a nation dubbed the "Celtic Tiger" only a few years ago, voters did not want Ireland to be isolated from the EU. (Quentin Fottrell, Ireland Votes 67% Vs 33% in Favor of Lisbon Treaty, DOW JONES NEWSWIRES, Oct. 2, 2009, available at http

Author: Stephen Clarke More by this author
Topic: Government More on this topic
Jurisdiction: Ireland More about this jurisdiction

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Last updated: 10/07/2009