Expenses scandal hits Irish Speaker

euronews channel-The speaker of Ireland’s parliament John O’Donoghue is to resign over an expenses scandal.
Since taking office as Speaker in June, 2007, his foreign travel expenses have risen to 90,000 euros.
O’Donoghue says he’ll hand in his resignation next week.

A member of the governing Fianna Fail party, he also spent more than half a million euros on travel while Tourism Minister between 2002 and 2007.

O’Donoghue has been the subject of revelations by some Irish newspapers in recent weeks. It was disclosed that his ministerial expenses included a limousine between terminals at London’s Heathrow airport, while a stay in a Paris hotel cost 1,000 euros a night. He also courted controversy by employing ten people in his office, seven more than his predecessor


European leaders praise Ireland’s massive ‘yes’ to the EU

AFP – Ireland voted resoundingly in favour of the EU’s Lisbon Treaty in a re-run referendum, overturning a previous No vote and taking a key step towards ending the expanding bloc’s deadlock, leaders said Saturday.

Irish Prime Minister Brian Cowen called the Yes vote with 67 percent support “a good day for Ireland and… a good day for Europe,” while EU counterparts also hailed a crucial move for its future.

In Brussels, European Commission chief Jose Manuel Barroso thanked the Irish people “for this sign of confidence,” saying it “showed that the European Union was ready to listen” to the misgivings which led to last year’s No vote.

The result was also welcomed in the Balkans, where EU membership candidates including Serbia had feared a second Irish No would torpedo their chances of ever joining the bloc.

Official results showed 67.13 percent in favour compared to 32.87 percent opposed, with 59 percent turnout.

In a first referendum in June 2008, Irish voters had stunned the EU by rejecting the Lisbon Treaty — designed to streamline decision-making — by 53 percent.

A second No vote would have effectively killed the treaty, which notably creates a new full-time president and foreign minister for the 27-nation EU, home to some 500 million Europeans.

But in Friday’s poll the treaty received support from 41 of Ireland’s 43 constituencies.

Cowen said: “Today the Irish people have spoken with a clear and resounding voice — it’s a good day for Ireland and it’s a good day for Europe.”

The No camp conceded defeat even before official results were published in Ireland, the only EU country constitutionally obliged to put the treaty to a referendum.

“The Irish people have asserted their trust in the political establishment of this country who have promised them jobs for a Yes vote and economic recovery,” said Declan Ganley, who led the victorious No campaign last year.

Dublin agreed to hold another poll after securing guarantees on key policy areas which it felt were behind last year’s rejection, such as its military neutrality, abortion and tax laws.

But there had been concerns that some voters would use the referendum to kick Cowen’s increasingly unpopular government over the spectacular collapse of Ireland’s long-booming economy.

Even with the Irish Yes, further obstacles remain: while 25 EU states have now formally backed the Lisbon Treaty, Poland and the Czech Republic are the only others yet to ratify it.

In Prague on Friday, the Czech constitutional court ordered President Vaclav Klaus — who in any case is a fierce opponent of the treaty — to hold off signing it into force.

The Irish result is also being closely watched in Britain where opposition leader David Cameron, tipped to win elections due by next June, has pledged to hold a referendum if he takes power and Lisbon has not yet been ratified.

Cameron, of the centre-right Conservatives, said that if a referendum is held, “I would ask the British people to vote No to that treaty”.

There have been suggestions in the European Parliament that former British premier Tony Blair could be given the job of EU president which would be created if the Lisbon Treaty comes into force.

British Prime Minister Gordon Brown said the Irish Yes vote cleared the way for the bloc to move forward on key areas like the economy.

“We can now work together to focus on the issues that matter most to Europeans — a sustained economic recovery, security, tackling global poverty, and action on climate change,” he said.

The Serbian government hailed the Irish vote, saying EU hopefuls in the western Balkans would also benefit from it.

The Yes vote “has opened doors to Europe that will have space for all European nations, including those from the western Balkans,” Serbian Foreign Minister Vuk Jeremic told Beta news agency.

Spain, which takes over the EU’s rotating presidency for the first half of next year, vowed to make its implementation a key priority.

Barroso campaigns for Lisbon Treaty ahead of critical vote

European Comission Chief Jose Manuel Barroso

The European Commission announced Saturday aid of 14.8 million euros (24.75 million dollars) for 2,400 workers left jobless by the closure of a US computer factory in western Ireland.

The announcement was made as Commission chief Jose Manuel Barroso was visiting Limerick, and two weeks before Ireland votes again on whether to accept the EU’s Lisbon Treaty.

“The economic crisis is affecting all European countries but Limerick and the surrounding areas have been hit hard by job losses at the local Dell plant and its suppliers,” it quoted Barroso as saying.

“The EU is built on solidarity. Our natural response is to come to the aid of those who are experiencing difficulties and to take decisive action to tackle the jobs impact of the crisis,” he said.

The cash is aimed at helping the redundant workers find new jobs in the wake of the closure of the Limerick plant, which had made Dell Ireland’s leading exporter, as the global crisis shattered the Celtic Tiger economy.

The aid under the European Globalisation Adjustment Fund, which was set up to help workers hit by the world economic crisis, still has to be approved by the European parliament and the bloc’s 27 member states.

Ireland votes in a referendum on October 2 on the Lisbon Treaty, which is designed to improve decision-making in a greatly expanded EU.

In a referendum in June last year the country — which is constitutionally bound to put the treaty to a public vote — sent shockwaves through the EU when it rejected the pact by 53.4 percent.

Latest opinion polls suggest the new referendum, following adjustments to the treaty, will return a yes vote, influenced in particular by the economic crisis which has hit Ireland harder than most.

In an interview with the Irish Times published Saturday Barroso said    there were doubts about the future situation of Ireland.

“Some people have asked me: is Ireland going to leave the EU?” he said.

“For investor confidence, it is important that there is certainty about the future of Ireland in the EU.”

Barroso also said that if the Lisbon Treaty, which requires unanimous ratification, was rejected the number of European commissioners would have to be reduced.

“The only way to ensure that Ireland will always have a commissioner is to vote Yes to Lisbon,” he said.

Dublin admits “Yes” to Lisbon will be difficult

Ireland’s Foreign Minister today admitted his government faces a tough task getting the EU’s Lisbon Treaty ratified next month.

The Irish people are voting on the charter again, having rejected it last year.

Michael Martin’s warning comes the day after his ruling Fianna Fail party launched its campaign for a “Yes” vote.

Yesterday, he was reassuring voters about concessions obtained from Brussels.

Mr Martin said: “We intend to inform the public of the new guarantees that address the main concerns that were articulated last year at the referendum campaign back then, and that, since, these concerns have been comprehensively addressed as the European powers have listened and delivered,” Martin said on Thursday.

While the “Yes” camp is still ahead, a new survey in the “Irish Times” shows support for the treaty has fallen, with an incease in the number of undecided voters.

Analysts have warned the government’s deep unpopularity could trigger a protest vote.
Another “No” would derail the reform treaty, possibly for good, as it must be ratified by all 27 EU member nations.