National Politics and European Integration
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National Politics and European Integration

From the Constitution to the Lisbon Treaty

Edited by Maurizio Carbone

This book discusses the domestic politics of treaty reform in the European Union, from the failed referendums on the Constitutional Treaty held in France and the Netherlands in May-June 2005 to the entry into force of the Treaty of Lisbon in December 2009.
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Chapter 8: Ireland: More Referendums Anyone?

Brian Girvin


Brian Girvin INTRODUCTION The Irish electorate’s decision on 12 June 2008 to reject the Lisbon Treaty compounds the challenge to the European project posed by the French and Dutch rejection of the Constitutional Treaty in 2005. These votes question the possibility that a new constitutional settlement in Europe can achieve legitimacy without a Union-wide referendum, but open up the prospect that the electorate could reject such a measure. The proposal made during the Convention on the Future of Europe that the Constitution should be ratified by a EU-wide vote on the same day was quickly dropped, though certain states did vote on the issue, resulting in the ‘constitutional impasse’ (Closa, 2007). The Irish vote was a rebuff to the European Union (EU) and the Irish government, but also to efforts at constitution building. Whether the outcome constitutes a crisis (Taggart, 2006: 7–8) remains a moot point but the Irish vote did have consequences for the future of the European Union and indeed Ireland’s continuing role in that institution (Houses of the Oireachtas: Sub Committee on Ireland’s Future in the European Union, 2008). Prior to 2001, Ireland had demonstrated consistent support for the expansion of the EU and for most of the innovative changes that occurred in the 1980s and 1990s. For the most part, Irish voters were supportive if not always enthusiastic about European integration during this period. However, in the decade that followed, the outcome has been far more problematic, as Table 8.1 demonstrates. The Nice Treaty was...

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