Ir­ish party claims U.S. op­posed to EU unity

The Washington Times Weekly - - World - By Si­mon Roughneen

DUBLIN — The party once led by the cur­rent Euro­pean Union am­bas­sador to Wash­ing­ton is claim­ing that the U.S. is ac­tively op­pos­ing Euro­pean in­te­gra­tion, pos­ing a po­ten­tial em­bar­rass­ment as Prime Min­is­ter Ber­tie Ah­ern pre­pared to ad­dress a joint ses­sion of Congress on April 30.

Lucinda Creighton, a spokes­woman for Ire­land’s largest op­po­si­tion party, Fine Gael, says in a Web post­ing that “U.S. for­eign pol­icy has tra­di­tion­ally been op­posed to EU in­te­gra­tion.”

“The U.S. sup­ports the EU as an eco­nomic bloc but noth­ing more. The idea of a po­lit­i­cally strong EU, act­ing as a check or coun­ter­bal­ance on the U.S. does not sit well with our trans-At­lantic friends,” says the spokes­woman, a mem­ber of Ire­land’s Par­lia­ment.

She also claims in the post­ing that the U.S. con­sis­tently op­poses NATO ex­pan­sion.

Fine Gael last held power from 1994 to 1997, un­der the cur­rent EU am­bas­sador to Wash­ing­ton, John Bru­ton. Con­tacted April 29 by The Wash­ing­ton Times, Mr. Bru­ton de­clined to com­ment on Ir­ish po­lit­i­cal af­fairs.

A State De­part­ment of­fi­cial noted yes­ter­day that Pres­i­dent Bush has strongly sup­ported EU and NATO ex­pan­sion into East­ern Europe in re­cent years, and has pushed strongly for a NATO in­vi­ta­tion for for­mer Soviet states Ge­or­gia and Ukraine at the al­liance’s Bucharest sum­mit ear­lier in April.

“I will en­cour­age our Euro­pean part­ners to in­crease their de­fense in­vest­ments to sup­port both NATO and EU op­er­a­tions,” Mr. Bush said prior to the sum­mit.

U.S. Am­bas­sador to NATO Vic­to­ria Nu­land, in a widely dis­cussed Fe­bru­ary speech in Paris, said:

“Europe needs a place where it can act in­de­pen­dently, and we need a Europe that is able and will­ing to do so in de­fense of our com­mon in­ter­ests,” she said.

A spokesman for Mr. Ah­ern’s gov­ern­ment would not com­ment on Ms. Creighton’s re­marks.

“We will not be drawn into com­ments on what other par­ties are say­ing,” the spokesman said, re­quest­ing anonymity be­cause he is not au­tho­rized to speak for at­tri­bu­tion.

Re­leased April 25, the state­ment comes as Ire­land faces a pop­u­lar vote on the EU’s pro­posed Lis­bon treaty, which would in­crease po­lit­i­cal in­te­gra­tion of the 27-na­tion bloc and cre­ate the post of EU pres­i­dent.

Ire­land is the sole EU mem­ber state hold­ing a ref­er­en­dum on the treaty, with other na­tions plan­ning to hold rat­i­fi­ca­tion votes in their par­lia­ments.

Mr. Ah­ern said that a “no” vote by Ire­land would be “a dis­as­ter for the coun­try,” af­ter an opin­ion sur­vey pub­lished April 27 showed pro­treaty sen­ti­ment with a nar­row­ing three-point lead. Thirty-four per­cent of those polled were un­de­cided on how they will vote in the June 12 plebiscite.

The Fine Gael state­ment tar­gets two prom­i­nent Ir­ish busi­ness­men, who are fund­ing a na­tion­wide cam­paign for a “no” vote, claim­ing they rep­re­sent “U.S. strate­gic in­ter­ests.”

“The busi­nesses of both Ulick McE­vaddy and De­clan Gan­ley are heav­ily de­pen­dent on con­tracts from the State De­part­ment, the Pen­tagon and U.S. gov­ern­ment agen­cies.

“I be­lieve that th­ese men are a lot less con­cerned about Ir­ish sovereignty and the word­ing of the Lis­bon treaty than they are about the po­ten­tial hit to their own per­sonal busi­ness in­ter­ests,” Ms. Creighton writes in the Web post­ing.

The busi­ness­men lead a cam­paign group called Lib­er­tas, which is cam­paign­ing against the treaty’s rat­i­fi­ca­tion.

“The con­tents of that state­ment are ut­terly with­out any foun­da­tion in fact, and rep­re­sent a naked at­tempt to win a [. . . ] vote by stir­ring a nasty anti-Amer­i­can sen­ti­ment,” a Lib­er­tas spokesper­son told The Wash­ing­ton Times.

Fine Gael is the main op­po­si­tion party in Ire­land’s leg­is­la­ture, and has been the tra­di­tional ri­val to the in­cum­bent Mr. Ah­ern’s Fianna Fail, with both par­ties con­ven­tion­ally de­picted as “cen­ter-right.”

David R. Sands in Wash­ing­ton con­trib­uted to this re­port.

Agence France-Presse / Getty Images

Ir­ish Prime Min­is­ter Ber­tie Ah­ern ad­dresses a joint ses­sion of the U.S. Congress in Wash­ing­ton on April 30. The 56-year-old spoke just days be­fore leav­ing of­fice af­ter 11 years in power.

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