The European Constitution is a good deal for Europe and a good deal for Ireland, Taoiseach Bertie Ahern claimed today.
As the Government launched a pamphlet and guidebook in Dublin to explain what the Constitution would mean for Ireland the Taoiseach said a well informed debate was needed ahead of a referendum.
But he stressed the charter would not force Irish soldiers to join rapid reaction units safeguarding war zones around the world.
He said the Seville declaration, which put forward Ireland’s position on neutrality, would ensure the nation’s status within the union remained unchanged.
“That issue is closed,” he said.
Mr Ahern will join other leaders in Rome tomorrow for the historic signing of the European Treaty, 47 years after the Treaty of Rome created the Union.
The Government will publish information on the internet, circulate guides to the public and a bring out White Paper on the European Constitution in the coming months to inform the public of what the changes will entail.
But he stressed Bunreacht na hEireann would continue to form the basis of Irish life.
“Our national constitution remains the basic legal document in the State. The European Constitution is the basic legal text of the European Union,” he said.
A referendum will take place sometime in the next two years, but Mr Ahern said he simply did not know when – 11 other member states also look likely to hold a vote.
He claimed Ireland was in the unique position of using referenda to decide many issues and pointed to six public votes on European matters over the last 17 years. The date of a vote will not be governed by what other states do, he warned.
Mr Ahern said he hoped the deal would end the need for the public to return to the polls on European issues for years to come.
“It should hold into future generations,” he said. “It should stop the piecemeal. This time it was a comprehensive undertaking.
“I’m very anxious that we are not accused, as we were in Nice One, of not having a good debate.”
Mr Ahern admitted the Nice One referendum had been “a bit of dog’s dinner.”
He also rejected claims Ireland had been forced to compromise during negotiations on the Constitution, but said it was impossible to call it a perfect solution.
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