Friday, May 30, 2008

SIPTU refuses to back Treaty

In a major blow to the Government's "Yes" campaign, SIPTU, the country's largest trade-union, has come out against backing the Lisbon Treaty in next month's referendum unless they are given assurances that the Government will legislate for the right to collective-bargaining. The news follows hot on the heels of a spate of bad news for supporters of the Treaty, including the failure as of yet of the Irish Farmers Association to come out for the Treaty (owing to concerns over EU Trade Commissioner Mandelson's handling of the WTO talks in Doha), the decision of the Roscommon health action group to call for a "no" vote, and the narrowing gap between the 2 sides in the latest Red C poll. The latter found the "No" side gaining ground to within 8 points of Lisbon's supporters at 41-33. Most worrying of all for Cowen, Gormless, Kenny and Gilmore, 5/8's of the former undecideds have gone into the "no" camp, a sure sign that the arguments of "No" campaigners such as Libertas, the Peoples Movement, Sinn Fein and elements of the Green party about the lack of democracy in the Treaty are increasingly finding currency with the wider electorate.

The poll also provides food for thought for the Opposition parties in particular. While Fine Gael and Labour are officially supporting the Treaty, the same cannot be said for their supporters. FG voters are divided exactly 36-36 against, while a majority of decided Labour voters are actually opposed. The supporters of these parties could be forgiven for feeling aggrieved at the refusal of their parties to act like a real Opposition and hold Fianna Fáil accountable for the ruinous terms Bertie negotiated at Lisbon. 55%+ of Sinn Fein voters are against, as are a majority of PD voters. Fianna Fáil voters, on the other hand, are overwhelmingly in favour (40-10 in the previous Red C poll). What this serves to show is, once more, how divorced are the Irish elites from the people the claim to represent. Irish parliamentary democracy encompasses a curious anomaly also found in Denmark and France - namely that the main parties are unanimous or almost unanimous in support for further European political integration, while vast swathes of their supporters are not. What can explain this anomaly? In the case of Ireland, I put it down in part to the fact that the knowledge that most EU treaties have to be put to referendum in Ireland under the 1987 Crotty Judgement has made Irish voters less vigilante and even sometimes disinterested in where their parties stand on Europe. Consequently, domestic issues are more high profile in their concerns. Fair enough.

But increasingly, Europe is interfering in our national lives in ways that would have shocked the men and women of 1916 and of the War of Independence. The Water Framework Directive has imposed unjust and retrograde water-charges on our schools. The bureaucrats in Brussels are trying to harmonise our taxes with the rest of Europe, and while the Government wants us to believe the veto will save the day, the reality is that we cannot trust politicians who promised us that the vast influx of cheap-labour predicted by "no" campaigners like Anthony Coughlan (of the National Platform) if we voted for the Nice Treaty in 2002 would not materialise. We are now expected to accept the reassurances of these very same Irish politicians who prophesised that things would not happen when in fact they did. Today fishermen from Co.Wexford are protesting in Dublin over the plight of the Irish fishing industry, which has been devastated by meddling from the Brussels bureaucrats and their cowtowing to the latter-day Spanish and Portuguese Armada's that ravage our waters and empty them of fish. For all the good that our main parties will attest has sprung from EU membership, for many it has been a two-way street. The fishermen know this more than most, as do the 13,000 Irish workers displaced in 2008 so far as a result of the Government's policies of mass-migration from the 12 new EU member states in Eastern Europe. It is not those immigrants whom I blame for this, but rather the anarchic policies that allowed this to happen. Today I had the notion to converse with my mother on the question of the upcoming referendum, and it was with interest that she informed me that her sister in law, long a fan of all things EU, was going to vote "no" on this occasion, in large part because of a growing concern over the absence of border controls by the Government. I think that when the history-books are written, they will record that the Government loss of the Lisbon campaign was in large part the reaping of the harvest they had sown in previous campaigns when they made promises they could not keep, and lost their credibility in the process.

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