'Lisbon will steal your children' advert denounced by MEPs
A newspaper advertisement appearing in an Irish Catholic newspaper warning that the Lisbon Treaty will allow the EU to take children, alcoholics and people with mental illness away from their families has shocked Yes side campaigners, who are saying the church must take a stand against such "blatantly false" information.
The ad from a ‘Eire go Brach' (meaning Ireland Forever) campaign in Alive, a Catholic monthly freesheet distributed widely in churches, quotes Article 6 of the Lisbon Treaty, saying that the treaty permits: "the lawful detention of persons for the prevention of the spreading of infectious diseases, of persons of unsound mind (mental illness, depression, alzheimers [sic], autism, special needs), alcoholics, drug addicts or vagrants (homeless)."
The group then warns: "The new legal directive will automatically allow the EU state to take possession of people's children, homes and financial savings. Under new EU laws, the above people are incapable of managing their own affairs."
"Under the Lisbon Treaty, the EU could seize elderly people's savings and homes and can take children off people who suffer from mild forms of alcoholism or depression or who do not own a family home."
The language in the advert actually comes from Article 6 of the EU Charter of Fundamental Rights and provides that everyone has the right to liberty and security of person, with the normal exceptions reserved by most existing democratic societies. In the Lisbon Treaty, the Charter is put on a legal standing for the first time.
Targeting vulnerable families
A cross-party group of Irish MEPs on Wednesday called on Catholic leaders in Ireland to ban "scurrilous" anti-Lisbon literature from their churches and from church publications, and warned that right-wing Catholics opposed to the treaty are one of the main obstacles to its passage.
At the Brussels launch of a campaign to call on Irish expats to get involved in the Lisbon debate and encourage their countrymen and women to vote Yes, Fine Gael, Labour and independent eurodeputies demanded the church dissociate itself from such activities.
Marian Harkin, an independent MEP who sits with the Liberals in the parliament, said that while some people might think no sensible person would believe such nonsense, she was unnerved to find that people from care facilities with which she had a long history had called her worried that their loved ones would be snatched by Brussels.
"This is nothing short of disgraceful," she told reporters. "It's made up as they go along. I've had calls from carers from County Clare saying people are frightened that the ‘EU state' will to take control of their homes."
"The church needs to look at it. This is misleading, false and designed to frighten and terrorise people. How can the church have this in their porches, we need to ask. It is particularly shameful how they are targeting vulnerable families, families with people with special needs."
Fine Gael MEP Jim Higgins, a former junior finance minister, said that Coir, a conservative Catholic group linked to anti-abortion campaigners Youth Defence, had to be combatted.
"Coir are extremely active on the ground. They're getting money from somewhere. We don't now where, but a lot of money."
His fellow Fine Gael MEP, Mairead McGuinness, said the church should be more robust in its support for the treaty.
"The onus is on the Catholic Church where these scurrilous publications concerned," she said.
"The church has supported Lisbon in a gentle way. It now needs to take on board things said in its name or in its porches."
Labour MEP Proinsias de Rossa used the opportunity to criticise the left-wing No campaigners to suggest they were inadvertently aiding the very people they would normally oppose.
"They are only strengthening reactionaries with their campaign. They are handing a victory on a plate to the likes of Coir and the far right."
No links with Coir
Coir for its part told EUobserver that they have never heard of the Eire go Brach Campaign and are not linked to the group, but they suggested that the MEPs are less concerned about this particular advert than the Alive paper as a whole.
"I don't know anything about this campaign," spokesman Scott Schittl said.
"This is more about attacking Alive as a paper than any particular ad. This is what this is about. Alive's been publishing information, telling the truth about the treaty and they're worried that people will actually learn about what the treaty contains."
"That's why they don't want Alive available in churches."
Ireland will have a referendum on the Lisbon Treaty on 2 October, having rejected it in a previous referendum in June last year.