At the end of last week, the Connolly Association delivered letters to the Irish Ambassador in London and to No 10 Downing Street praising the Irish constitution for allowing a referendum on the Lisbon constitutional treaty and urging prime minister Gordon Brown to reconsider his government's position not to hold a vote in Britain.
Commenting on its letter to the Irish Ambassador to London, Connolly Association joint general secretary David Granville said:
"It is a sign of the democratic tradition in Ireland that the people must agree to any proposed changes to the Irish constitution. However we are deeply concerned that the people of Ireland have already expressed their views once before on the Lisbon Treaty. We sincerely hope that their voice will not be ignored again should they decide to vote No a second time on 2 October.
"As a British-based organisation, we also feel it important to point out that, while those who will vote YES in the coming referendum will do so with the full support of the British government, a government which has denied its own people a vote on this important matter, those who vote NO will do so with the overwhelming support of the British people. We leave it up to the Irish people themselves to decide whose support they feel to be more important."
Turning to the letter addressed to the British prime minister Gordon Brown, he said:
"Gordon Brown promised the people of Britain a vote on this important issue and we are urging the prime minister to uphold this promise and to grant the British people the same democratic say as our family and friends have been given in the 26-county Republic of Ireland.
"We believe that to deny the people of Britain a vote on this issue, an issue which affects all our lives, is a grave error and displays all the hallmarks of moral and political cowardice.
"We believe that Gordon Brown's decision to go back on his promise has nothing to do with any minor changes that have been made to the treaty since the original promise was made and everything to do with the fact that he and his government knows full well that, given a chance to vote, the people of Britain would overwhelmingly reject the Lisbon Treaty and EU plans to create a federal European superstate."
The full text of the letters to the Irish Ambassador and the British prime minister is reproduced below:
Letter to the Irish Ambassador, Bobby McDonagh
On behalf of the Connolly Association, the oldest campaigning organisation of the Irish in Britain and their British friends, we'd like you to pass on our thanks to the government of your country for abiding by the Irish constitution and allowing the Irish people to have their say on 2nd October, by way of a referendum, on the important matter of the Lisbon constitutional treaty.
In doing so we would nevertheless express our deep concern over the fact that the people of Ireland have already expressed their views on Lisbon in an earlier referendum and our hope that the people's voice will not be deemed to be unworthy a second time should, as is their democratic right, they opt to vote No again.
As a British-based organisation, we have no intention or desire to advise the people of Ireland on how they should vote in the coming referendum. That is a matter for them, and for them alone.
We would, however, wish to point out that those who are planning to vote YES will do so with the full blessing of our government here in Britain - and of all governments within the EU who have not seen fit, even where promised, to allow their people to have a democratic vote on this important EU treaty.
To those who are planning to vote NO, we make it clear that they will do so with the overwhelming backing of the people of Britain.
It is not overstating the importance of the Irish referendum to say that the future of Europe is in the hands of the Irish people. We feel sure that they will carry out their duty with extreme diligence and we wish them every success in their endeavours on 2 October.
David Granville (joint general secretary)
Jim Redmond (president)
Letter to the British prime minister Gordon Brown
Dear Prime Minister,
On behalf of the Connolly Association, the oldest campaigning organisation of the Irish in Britain and their British friends, we'd like to register our deep concern at your government's decision not to allow the people of Britain a democratic vote on the Lisbon constitutional treaty, as promised by you during the election campaign for the Labour Party leadership in 2008.
As you are aware, the Lisbon Treaty, which effectively establishes a constitution for the EU, will have major implications for the future of ordinary people, not only here in Britain, but throughout the current EU states and beyond.
No less a figure than the former French president Valery Giscard d'Estaing, writing to you and foreign secretary Mr Milliband, let the cat out of the bag when he explained:
"I have taken on the work of comparing the draft of the new Treaty of Lisbon with the Constitution on the 'nine essential points'. To my surprise, and, to tell the truth, to my great satisfaction, these nine points reappear word for word in the new project. Not a comma has changed! The only thing is that you have to really look for them because they are dispersed in the texts the new Treaty refers to, namely the Treaties of Rome and Maastricht. The only difference is that the qualified majority voting is put off until 1 November 2014, while with the Constitution, it would have come into force straight after ratification. I do not see the interest of this delay and I think we could have done without it."
Why then persist with claims that what we have before us now is substantially different enough to deny the people of Britain a democratic voice on this important issue? The only answer that the Connolly Association has been arrive at is that you and your government know full well that the people of Britain would vote No, right across the political spectrum, and would do so emphatically.
We believe that to deny the people of Britain a vote this issue, an issue which affects all our lives, is a grave error on the part of your government and displays all the hallmarks of moral and political cowardice, something which we thought we'd never say about our current Prime Minister, whatever political differences there may be between the Connolly Association and the Labour Party under your leadership.
We therefore urge you and your government to reconsider the decision not to hold a referendum in Britain on this issue and to grant the people of Britain the same democratic rights as our families and friends have been granted across the Irish Sea in the 26-county Republic of Ireland.
David Granville (joint general secretary)
Jim Redmond (president)
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