DUBLIN - Agence France-Presse
A second Irish vote may be necessary on the EU's key reform treaty, the country's Europe Minister Dick Roche said on Monday.
Ireland sent shockwaves through the European Union when 53 percent of voters rejected the Lisbon Treaty in the only popular vote on the text anywhere in the 27-nation bloc. Opponents of the treaty say no new vote is necessary following the June referendum result and claim it is little more than a mildly tweaked version of the previous EU constitution, torpedoed by French and Dutch voters in referendums in 2005.
"'Not an inch' is not a policy that has much to commend it in a dynamic Europe that wants to move forward," Roche told the Irish Independent newspaper. "We have to explore all possible solutions. We cannot exclude the possibility that, at some stage, and in the right circumstances, it may be necessary to consult the people once again. "My personal view is that a referendum is the appropriate response to the position we are in; this is very much a personal view at this stage," Roche said.
The newspaper says Roche is the first minister to publicly suggest an eventual re-run of the treaty referendum.
Roche said that if Ireland wants to retain its position as a constructive EU member state, "we cannot simply sit on our hands, as some would have us do, and keep saying that 'No' means 'No'".
"We have to recognize, however, that all other member states - 26 sovereign, democratic parliaments - are likely to have ratified the treaty by the end of the year. This will leave Ireland in an isolated position," he said.
The government is awaiting a specially commissioned analysis of why the people voted "No". It is due next month.
Sinn Fein, the only party represented in the Dail, or lower house of parliament, that opposes the treaty, said in response to Roche that it had "engaged with the public and produced an alternative document which sets out in detail the changes which need to be included.
"Any proposal to re-run the Lisbon referendum is an affront to the democratically expressed will of the people," the party's Member of the European Parliament, Mary Lou McDonald, said in a statement.
Prime Minister Brian Cowen is due to travel to Paris next month for talks with French President Nicolas Sarkozy on a possible way out of the crisis that has left the bloc in limbo. EU leaders are set to discuss the Irish rejection again at an October summit in an effort to overcome the impasse ahead of elections next year to the European Parliament.