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Europe waited with bated breath for the results of the Irish referendum, which decided the fate of the Lisbon Treaty—a document drafted to further unite Europe into a more tightly knit governing body, presumably more able to tackle global challenges. All other 26 European Union member states left approval to their parliaments, with Ireland being the only nation to hold a referendum.
The Irish voted “No.” The results were 862,414 to 752,451, with turnout at 53.1%.
Those on both sides of the issue led strong campaigns. Opponents canvassed Ireland with arguments that the treaty would bring higher taxes or would “drag the Irish into other people’s wars.” Irish Prime Minister Gerry Adams accused the opposing campaign of “sheer inaccuracy and absurdity,” and said this was the best deal that the EU could offer (BBC).
If Ireland had approved the Lisbon Treaty, it would have:
Given more power to the EU president, who could then remain in power for a total of five years, to be elected by leaders of the member states
Created a rotating six-month presidency for the European Council
Given the EU “legal personality,” allowing it to sign international treaties as a single governing entity rather than an international organization
Removed national veto power for over 50 policies
The treaty is a less ambitious version of the 2005 constitution that was tabled because of a “No” vote from France and the Netherlands. The purpose for slimming down a previous draft of the EU constitution was to avoid situations such as the one in Ireland. EU leaders knew that if referendums were held throughout the 27 member states, they would all struggle to secure a “Yes” vote.
The Irish referendum effectively vetoed the treaty and removed much of the momentum toward the unity the EU has mustered during the last year. However, this is not the first time Ireland has voted “No.” In 2001, the nation voted against the Treaty of Nice, yet passed it a year later after a controversial second vote.