home Europe, Politics Ireland and the Lisbon Treaty: round two

Ireland and the Lisbon Treaty: round two

The date has been set. October 2 will see the second Lisbon Treaty referendum in Ireland. The “No” campaign is steaming ahead. The “Yes” campaign, unfortunately led by the government, will begin in earnest sometime around September.

The Pleasure of Your Company (aka Wedding Daze) full movie Lisbon Part I was rejected by the Irish people. Whether this was due to a lash out against the government, a successful misinformation campaign, Celtic Tiger apathy or a genuine rejection of the terms of the treaty, is open to debate.

I do not agree with  the notion that the treaty was genuinely rejected. Who could read it all? It is a 232-page legal document in bureaucratese. It induces boredom, especially the beginning which makes minor modifications to the language:

Article 1 shall be amended as follows:

(a) the following words shall be inserted at the end of the first paragraph:

‘on which the Member States confer competences to attain objectives they have in
common.’;

Ugh.

So why was the Treaty really rejected? We must consider ire at the government and the misinformation campaign. The misinformation surrounding the Treaty in the lead up to the referendum was skillfully orchestrated and well funded. It consisted of Declan Ganley, dodgy US-centric millionaire; Sinn Féin, remaking themselves as lefties; the People Before Profit Alliance; the Socialist Party; and a ragtag of fundamentalists. These are strange bedfellows indeed, as the leader of the Socialist Party called Declan Ganley a “puppet of the US military”.

After losing the MEP seat in the Ireland North West constituency, Ganley has withdrawn from politics which includes, one hopes, campaigning against the Treaty.

The “No” campaign declares its defence of sovereignty, neutrality and democracy, none of which are under threat by the Treaty. To expand a little on those three issues, these tireless campaginers believe that abortion will be forced on the country; there will be excessive bureaucracy; smaller states will lose influence; Brussels will have the power to change our tax system; and that we will lose our commissioner.

The issue of the commissioner is a red herring as far as I am concerned, given that commissioners are elected to represent the EU, not their home countries. To vote no, on the issue of the commissioner is to acknowledge that you are willing to bypass the system and have a word in somebody’s ear to get what you want. This is also known as corruption.

The inclusion of abortion in the debate is interesting. Anti-abortion groups such as Cóir claim that an appeal to the European Court of Human Rights would force abortion in Ireland if the Treaty were passed. What these people do not understand is that Irish citizens can already appeal to the ECHR, where they can get justice after the Irish system has failed. The Treaty does not change that right. We already have the right of appeal.

As for the rest, it is misinformation. The EU does not care about our taxation laws and the Treaty is designed to cut through the red tape, rather than increase it.

The government has sent a leaflet to every house in the country with the following clarifications, which they claim have been guaranteed by the Commission.

– Ireland, and all other Member States, will keep a Commissioner

– Ireland will remain in control of its own tax rates

– Irish neutrality will not be affected – no conscription, no defence alliances

– Ireland retains control of sensitive ethical issues such as abortion

– Workers’ rights and public services are valued and protected in Ireland and across the EU

Naturally, they have been guaranteed because they were already part of the Treaty. It’s enough to make one want to tear one’s hair out.

The government was accused of supporting only one side of the debate by sending the postcard. I suppose that is because not a single member of the “No” coalition is arguing on the terms of the Treaty, because they cannot. There is no threat to our sovereignty, neutrality or democracy.

The EU has supported Ireland since 1973, when we joined the European Economic Community, with billions of euro in structural grants, farm subsides and opportunity to trade in an enlarged market.

What amazes me is that, EU civil servants can get together and hammer out a piece of legislation that is coherent and of benefit to member states and the implementation of the Treaty is held up by an apathetic government and a fringe group of whining lefties who do not understand that the revolution has passed them by.

In the spirit of full disclosure, I am a leftie too. I am all in favour of the welfare state and the governmental support of those in need. I despise the big business lobbyists that corrupt politicians. However, the Lisbon Treaty, although it will align us more closely with our European colleagues, is not a prelude to the Evil Empire.

The only consideration left is the intense anger that the citizens of Ireland have towards the government. It is commonly agreed that the government artificially inflated the property bubble and therefore are to blame for the recession. However, I think they would have been forgiven that if they had not put the interests of their rich supporters above the well-being of the country as a whole.

The truth is that the Treaty is seen as the government’s responsibility and there is little the people of Ireland like better than to vote against the government to show their anger, even if it may harm their own self-interest.

There is everything left to play for in this game.

13 thoughts on “Ireland and the Lisbon Treaty: round two

  1. I am an american who married a wonderful spanish woman. In american I enjoy my freedoms to the fullest. I speak my mind without to much fear of reprisal, carry a gun, have the right to not be searched by police at any whim. If you watch the documentary END OF NATIONS maybe you will get a taste for what NO TO LISBON means. I can´t describe everything, but basically all europeans lose sovergnty and the right to make desicions for themselves. I beg the editor and writer of this column to watch this documentary urgently.

  2. @Nora Interesting questions indeed but quite a few are self evident. Q1 is common sense. Who wants to read all the European Treaties in a single document? Lisbon alone is 232 pages long. Anyone can look at all the Treaties on the EU portal. Q2 All the legally enforceable parts of our Constitution remain supreme. That’s why we have to vote on Lisbon. Look I could go through them all but inside why don’t you talk a look at Jason O’Mahony’s Spoofer’s Guide to the Lisbon Treaty. It’s easy to understand.

    @stimp I haven’t seen the documentary but I know the usual straw-arguments being bandied around by the “No to Lisbon” crowd. The loss of the sort of sovereignty that you refer to happened two treaties ago. People just didn’t realise it

    Ireland, along with every other EU state, has received directives that we must obey. That it a good thing in our case. The directives come out of the participation of all member states. This is democracy in action. Besides, in our case, Ireland’s government needs a tight rein. After all, no one else can keep control of a banana republic like ours.

  3. “The truth is that the Treaty is seen as the government’s responsibility and there is little the people of Ireland like better than to vote against the government to show their anger, even if it may harm their own self-interest.”

    It’s a pity, Mor, that these are the same half-wits who consistently vote for corrupt (or at least questionable) politicians election after election. Haughey, Ahern, Lowry and many more.

    Every half-wit with a half-baked grievience was out voting “no” for all sorts of reasons – including blatant lies, scaremongering and outright xenophobia. There’s an imbecile who’ll be voting “no” this time because the Government is going to tax his investment properties!!! I had something on it on my blog: http://gombeennation.blogspot.com/2009/07/we-should-not-be-allowed-lisbon-vote.html

    I’ll be voting “yes” as I did the last time. Even though I’m pissed off they are keeping a commissioner for each country as 1) it means increased bureaucracy and jobs for the boys and girls, and 2) it means that shysters like McCreevy will have places to go when they are finally found out in Ireland.

  4. Re your argument that the Treaty was not genuinely rejected:
    Suppose that every time a political party gets less than 50% vote in a general election, they say “oh no, boo hoo, the public didn’t understand our message, we will force a new referendum every year until we get 51%, and we’re still in government now so we can do what we like”.
    Sore losers at all???

  5. @Gombeen Man

    Why do you think that people vote in the same corrupt politicians? Lack of alternative? Indifference? FG just a different colour of FF? I don’t know. There has to be some reason why the half-baked grievance is never acted out in the generals, just the euros, locals and referendums.

    I’m voting yes because I have some faith in the EU to put a leash on some of the more contemptible of our politicians and their actions.

    @brownbear73

    It was a possible reason rather than an argument. Perhaps you remember the millions of euros poured into the no campaign. And there is big difference between using one’s vote responsibly and shafting the other 495 million EU citizens.

    There is a reason why the public does not get to vote on Irish law. There is a reason why no other state votes on these referendums. The ordinary citizen does not know enough about the workings of the EU to vote responsibly.

  6. Yes, Mor – lack of an opposition is a factor alright. Look at FG voting through Ahern’s Criminal Justice (Amendment) Act.

    But when they consistently vote for individual politicians who they know to be dodgy, it does make me wonder…

  7. Please VOTE NO for all the europeans not having a voice. About 60 to 70% of people living in europe understand that lisbon will form some kind of EUSSR. This is betrayal on the european idea. EU will never be the europe we all wanted.

  8. Well, i read the treaty (twice). The consolidated version, obviously, which has all the changes highlighted in bold.

    My issues with the treaty are as follows:
    1) the commission’s exclusive law making powers. I know its always been this way, but they are not democratically accountible, which i believe is a huge issue now that the EU has gained more power.
    2) the process – this constitution has been rejected by France and the Netherlands, and its been framed as a treaty so that other states had no need for referendums. This is disgusting and problematic to any independent democratic observer.
    3) The requirement to progressively improve military capabilities. I really don’t want to subsidise weapon companies with my tax monies.
    4) the unelected president of the council. If one needs to be there, then he or she should be elected by a free and fair secret ballot. Otherwise, where is the accountability?

    All based on the treaty, all rational reasons. I’m not a fan of most of the groups on either side, but i take my responsibility as a citizen seriously.

  9. Forget the fear-mongering, forget short-term thinking, here’s the real question(s) that need to be answered:

    “Why is the EU so afraid to let people vote on the Lisbon Treaty if it’s so beneficial to everyone? Wouldn’t they rather have a strong EU with the support of the people behind them? Aren’t they pro-democracy?”

    I would humbly ask you to please vote “No”, for all our sakes! If, for nothing else, the fact that this is an insult to democracy, freedom and to all the folks who have given their lives in protecting these ideals. No one else in the rest of Europe (400+ million) has had a say in this.

    I’m all for a united Europe, but one where the peoples voices are heard and respected – where there is transparency and accountability – not one of arrogance and contempt where they make you ‘vote again’ until you get it right. Will they have another vote if it’s “Yes”? Of course not, in fact, with the approval of the treaty they wouldn’t need any further referendums going forward.

    If that’s what the EU wants to become, just another unaccountable layer of bureaucracy – then count me out.

  10. The Irish people have no responsibility to vote for the sake of any other EU state. If there are states that are not happy with their government, that is an internal matter.

    You need to take it up with your government, not the people of Ireland.

    Anti Lisbonites always cite France and the Netherland’s rejection of the Constitution. They never mention Spain or Luxembourg acceptance. The president of France was elected on the understanding that he would change the French constitution and ratify Lisbon.

    There will not be an unelected president of the Commission. Our representative will elect the president. That is what representatives are for.

    The military is has been debunked.

    As for the constant harping of the Anti-Lisbonites that the gov will keep asking until they get the answer they want, has been debunked. In an effort to salvage years of work and delicate negotiations, guarantees were given to Ireland addressing the concerns of the people.

    I sincerely hope, for all of us, that the Irish ratify Lisbon. I know I’ll be voting yes.

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