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Cowen and Sarkozy to meet today in Dublin

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July 21, 2008

French President Nicolas Sarkozy will meet Taoiseach Brian Cowen at lunch time today as the pair attempt to craft a way forward for Europe after Ireland’s rejection of the Lisbon Treaty.

Mr Sarkozy will also make time in his brief trip to Ireland for private discussions with Labour and Fine Gael. The President will hold talks separately at Government Buildings in Dublin before facing leading figures from the No camp at the French Embassy. The four hour visit had been thrown into disarray after a brief round table meeting was set up bringing together pro- and anti-treaty figures — including senior opposition leaders. Fine Gael leader Enda Kenny refused to commit to the plan. Labour’s Eamon Gilmore dismissed the idea out of hand and demanded meaningful, face to face talks. Mr Sarkozy’s trip attracted further criticism after he insisted Irish voters would have to vote a second time on Lisbon — despite their emphatic rejection of the reform treaty last month. The lunchtime meetings are designed to find a way out of the crisis created by last month’s surprising referendum result. Mr Sarkozy, who is travelling to Ireland without his former model wife Carla Bruni, will meet the Taoiseach and Foreign Affairs Minister Micheal Martin before the talks with the opposition leaders. It is understood Mr Sarkozy, who also holds the presidency of the European Council, is determined to craft a compromise on Lisbon ahead of the October EU summit. Hearing first hand the Irish experience is part of these moves. Protesters from the No camp are planning to demonstrate outside Government Buildings as the meetings take place. Sinn Fein president Gerry Adams urged the Taoiseach to reject any suggestions of a second referendum. “Brian Cowen needs to set out in clear and unambiguous terms the need for a new treaty,” Mr Adams said. Those attending the Embassy include Libertas founder Declan Ganley, a successful businessman and outspoken critic of EU reform under Lisbon. He was one of the loudest voices in the No campaign. Others invited include Sinn Fein’s Padraig MacLochlainn, Richard Boyd-Barrett, from the People Before Profit Alliance, Irish Farmers’ Association president Padraig Walshe, director general of the Irish Business and Employers Confederation Turlough O’Sullivan and general secretary of the Irish Congress of Trade Unions David Begg. Meanwhile, chairperson of the People's Movement, Patricia McKenna, warned French president Nicolas Sarkozy ahead of her planned meeting with him today that there will be no second referendum on the Lisbon treaty. The former Green Party MEP is due to meet Mr Sarkozy at the French Embassy. She said, however, that the organisation had “misgivings” about the meeting, and that it should not be seen as any form of “consultation by proxy” with the Irish people. “Our message to President Sarkozy, as president of the European Council, is clear. There will be no second referendum. Irish people voted in unprecedented numbers after thinking long and hard about the issue,” she said. She also accused the Taoiseach, Brian Cowen, of downplaying the No vote to his EU colleagues and failing to “convey the strength of the No voters views”. Additional reporting: PA

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