Irish Prime Minister insists European Constitution must not be scrapped


Ireland will hold a referendum on a Constitution for the European Union despite France's rejection of the treaty, Taoiseach (Prime Minister) Bertie Ahern declared in the wake of the Treaty's rejection by French voters.

Mr Ahern surprised Irish voters by insisting they would still get the chance to have their say on the massive 480-page documents.

The Taoiseach, during whose presidency of the European Union the Constitution was agreed, also insisted it would not be renegotiated or redrafted.

He said everyone "has to accept the democratic decision of the French people", before declaring that the ratification process would continue.

"We are still committed to the European Constitution, I hope all member states are committed to it. Obviously everybody has an obligation before November of next year to ratify the constitution so the process will continue."

Mr Ahern said he was disappointed with the result in France but admitted that it had been on the cards.

"Obviously it all cannot be ignored and I think there will have to be a fairly serious debate on it now at the European council meeting in a fortnight's time," he said.

The Taoiseach said it was up to the French Government to decide whether to put the constitution to the public again, as Ireland did with the Nice Treaty in 2001. But he insisted the mammoth task of re-drafting the document was unlikely.

"I think we have to work that out. I don't know how we could re-negotiate it. Remember where it came from, it came from a convention that had gone on for several years," he said.

"We are talking about an enormous document. What bit would you be trying to renegotiate, it's 480 pages? It was a compromise, it was a set of balances so I don't think there is any easy
answer to that."

Sinn Fein and United Left Group (GUE-NGL) Euro-MP Mary Lou McDonald responded by challenging the Dublin government "to tell us exactly what we will be voting for if this is put to the people in the Autumn” Speaking before the vote in the Netherlands which rejected the Treaty by an even more overwhelming margin, Ms McDonald added that "The proposed Constitution requires the support of all 25-member states to be ratified, that clearly cannot happen, as it has been rejected by the French. "Are the government seriously suggesting that millions of people across Europe are going to be ignored and that the referendum will be re-run in every country that rejects it until the EU bureaucrats get the result they want? The French people are to be congratulated. The result of their referendum must be respected. Their success is a major boost to all those who believe that this Constitution should be rejected because it is undemocratic, militaristic and right wing."