by Frank Schnittger
Mon Jul 13th, 2009 at 09:41:32 PM EST
Richard Greene is spokesman for Cóir a conservative pressure group opposed to the Lisbon Treaty. The Irish Times has been giving a lot of its letters page space to anti-Lisbon campaigners repeating the same few arguments, but it has really outdone itself by giving space for an op-ed piece to Richard Green complete with an emotive picture of a baby apparently surrounded by red tape. The Irish Times must be desperate to try and improve its circulation figures by stoking up some controversy. July can be a desperately slow month for news.
The core of his argument is that:
Yes vote on Lisbon could open door for abortion - The Irish Times - Tue, Jul 14, 2009
So the guarantees have no real legal effect. In fact, they are merely political promises - the sort that we know, from bitter experience, are broken daily.
But what of the future protocols promised by the EU - which may or may not be attached to a future treaty at some date? Several problems arise with this proposed means of securing our right to decide on abortion and other issues.
Firstly, when the Government says it promises to bring forward at some future date a protocol on, for example, abortion, that's a promise we cannot hold them to. We don't know the wording of these proposed protocols or whether they will ever actually come to pass.
Secondly, and more importantly, while such protocols would have legal standing, the same problem as before still arises (and is the reason why anti-abortion people voted No to Lisbon despite the Maastricht protocol). That problem is the Charter of Rights attached to the treaty which becomes legally binding on all EU member states if Lisbon is passed.
That charter, and the fact that we will be citizens of a new EU super state, will be the basis of a legal challenge to Ireland's abortion laws which will surely be brought before the European Court of Justice. This court would have enormously enhanced powers to decide on social and moral issues, such as abortion, under the Lisbon Treaty.
This is the core of the problem. Any protocol on the right to life (or on family law) can come into conflict with the charter - and the European Court of Justice can use the charter to overrule the conflicting protocol and impose abortion on the Irish people.
In other words, the matter will still be in the hands of the European Court of Justice, not the Irish people, if the Lisbon Treaty is passed.
First of all, as I pointed out in When anti-Lisbon becomes anti-EU, Lisbon doesn't change the jurisdiction of the ECJ. We accepted its primacy when we joined the EU.
But Richard Greene's real problem seems to be with the CHARTER OF FUNDAMENTAL RIGHTS OF THE EUROPEAN UNION. However nowhere does he quote what section of the Charter he is concerned about.
In case you haven't read it, I quote what appears to me to be the most relevant sections:
Right to life
- Everyone has the right to life.
- No one shall be condemned to the death penalty, or executed.
Right to the integrity of the person
the free and informed consent of the person concerned, according to the procedures laid down by
- Everyone has the right to respect for his or her physical and mental integrity.
- In the fields of medicine and biology, the following must be respected in particular:
the prohibition of eugenic practices, in particular those aiming at the selection of persons,
the prohibition on making the human body and its parts as such a source of financial gain,
the prohibition of the reproductive cloning of human beings.
Prohibition of torture and inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment
No one shall be subjected to torture or to inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment.
Prohibition of slavery and forced labour
- No one shall be held in slavery or servitude.
- No one shall be required to perform forced or compulsory labour.
- Trafficking in human beings is prohibited.
Right to liberty and security
Everyone has the right to liberty and security of person.
Respect for private and family life
Everyone has the right to respect for his or her private and family life, home and communications
Nowhere is abortion mentioned, or anything which might be construed as supporting the procedure. The other thing which is striking is how clear and unambiguous is the language used. Whatever criticism may be justly levelled at the complexity of the Lisbon Treaty itself, that criticism cannot be levelled at the Charter.
Just precisely what sections does Richard Greene have a problem with, or is he just scare-mongering as usual?
I have drafted a LTE in response, but don't have any expectation that it will be published.
Madam,- You have given considerable space to correspondents on your letters and opinion pages urging us to vote NO on the Lisbon Treaty on the grounds that it makes us subject to the rulings of the European Court of Justice (EJC).
However the Third Amendment to the Irish Constitution which ratified our membership of the EU in 1972 clearly states that "No provision of this Constitution invalidates laws enacted, acts done or measures adopted by the State necessitated by the obligations of membership of the Communities or prevents laws enacted, acts done or measures adopted by the Communities, or institutions thereof, from having the force of law in the State."
In other words we accepted the primacy of EU law and the EJC when we joined the EU and new constitutional amendments are only required when we confer additional powers to the EU. The recent ruling of the German Consitutional Court reaffirms the same thing, except that in Germany, a referendum is not required to transfer additional powers to the EU.
Richard Green's Opinion piece (July 14th.) - complete with picture of a baby surrounded by red tape - makes the further point that the CHARTER OF FUNDAMENTAL RIGHTS OF THE EUROPEAN UNION might be interpreted by the ECJ to provide a right of abortion. However, nowhere does he mention what section of the Charter he is concerned about. There is in fact no section dealing with abortion and plenty dealing with the right to life and the rights of the child.
The CHARTER OF FUNDAMENTAL RIGHTS OF THE EUROPEAN UNION is a very simple and well written document which does not require a lawyer's training to read and understand. It is a clear, unambiguous and wholly positive affirmation of basic human rights and decencies which should be the basis of any civilised society. Perhaps Mr. Greene would be so good as to point out which sections he objects to.