Wednesday, August 6, 2008

Irish Times: "Ratify Lisbon regardless"

It is with shock and concern that I read on August 2nd the Irish Times' political-correspondant Stephen Collins 'solution' to the Lisbon impasse. In a disturbing example of the elitism that dominates the Europhile perspective on how accountable the European project should be to the people it claims the right to govern, he calls for the government to ratify sections of the Treaty that might not contravene the Crotty judgement 1987, while putting the remaining issues to a referendum. That the same elite who derided the first no to Nice in 2001 on the grounds of its low turnout and used this to justify calls for a second referendum should now deride a no vote with a turnout of 53% - higher even than for Nice II - on the supposed basis that the people 'didn't understand it' - is a real and present irony in this debate. It also confirms the belief I have always held since I became aware of the contents of Lisbon and during my observations of the shocking reaction of the Brussels and Irish elite to the French and Dutch "no" votes to the EU Constitution - namely that the European project has lost its way, and is prepared to circumvent democracy and popular-consent in the name of "ever closer union". In this respect a parallel may perhaps be drawn with the Russian Duma elections of 1918 which Lenin refused to accept because his Bolsheviks only won 25% of the vote. Like Lenin, the Eurocrats and Irish elites believe that the people need to be guided by an oligarchy of constitutional revolutionaries towards "ever closer union" and should not have the final say on the evolution of the project of European integration. On the website, I found it disturbing to find that Fine Gaeler NotDevsSon believes that as one of the most clued-in political-correspondants in the country, Collins' views likely reflected the thinking in the corridors of power in this country. What has Fianna Fáil come to if - as a party that Dev stated was founded to further Irish sovereignty and independence is now prepared to flout a democratic referendum result to end that sovereignty and independence? And if it is to be surrendered with the stroke of a pen, then what were 700 years of struggle for independence for? What did those heros die for if we are just going to give it away without so much of a whimper? I do not believe that the Irish people wish to do so, but as for most of the Leinster House set - well...

The premise of Collins' article is wrong. He states "Attempting to salvage Ireland's place in Europe and protect future generations from the disaster of the Lisbon defeat will be the supreme test of Taoiseach Brian Cowen. If a referendum cannot be won, the only solution is for the Dáil to find a way to ratify the essential nuts and bolts of the treaty, while allowing the electorate to vote again on the issues that caused such anxiety in the campaign. The Taoiseach will have to summon up the nerve and vision displayed by Seán Lemass when he dragged the country into the modern world in the early 1960s, against some of the most basic instincts of his own party and a large chunk of the electorate. History has vindicated Lemass's decision to abandon protectionism and embrace free trade and the wider world of Europe. Brian Cowen is now facing a challenge of similar proportions. The referendum defeat has launched Ireland down the slippery slope of a retreat from involvement in Europe and a return to the status of a being a client state of Britain. A second rejection of Lisbon would inevitably doom the country to that fate for generations to come...Of course the Government would also have political hell to pay for going the legislative route but it might not be nearly as bad as some Ministers think. After all the main reason given for voting No was that people didn't understand the treaty. In that case a good proportion of the electorate might be relieved if the Dáil took on the responsibility of dealing with it, rather than opting for another long drawn out and confused public debate about issues people cannot, or will not, understand."

The article trots out the usual "yes" mantra that the people "cannot..understand" issues put to them in referenda, and implies that we need an elite, who do "understand" these issues to make the decision for us - even if it runs counter to the peoples' decision. It is notable that Collins' seems to believe that it was only on the no side that there was misunderstanding or unawareness of the Treaty's contents. That this is not correct is confirmed by the recent Eurobarometer poll on the aftermath of the no vote, which confirmed that more than one-third of "yes" voters were motivated simply by the notion that 'EU membership has benefited Ireland', which self-evidently has nothing to do with the Treaty. The Treaty will determine our future, and the so-called Brussels "largesse", which was bought by the surrender of our fishing-industry to the vultures of the Common Fisheries Policy, is immaterial to the Lisbon debate. Further, Collins' claims that we will revert to "client" status vis a vis our relationship with the UK is ludicrous. Since 1972 the percentage of our exports going to the UK has fallen from 80% to around 21%. The thesis that were we outside of the EU that would reverse simply does not stand up to scrutiny. The Icelandic, Swiss and Norwegian economies are outside of the EU and have a free-trade agreement with it. The former has just 1% unemployment, while Norway's GDP per capita is similar to our own. Within a year of the French "no" vote to the European Constitution in 2005, FDI had doubled, while Dutch unemployment fell from 4% to 2% - the lowest in the EU. So while some may attempt to draw false causalities between the Irish "no" vote and the Irish recession, the reality is that this has been coming since the beginnings of the housing-slump in late 2006. Economist Moore McDowell has recently expressed the view on Newstalk106 that the recession began a year ago. Clearly, the reasons for the end of the Celtic Tiger stem primarily from domestic factors, such as the failure of the govt to take measures to cool down the overheating housing market e.g. allowing the developers an opt-out from Part V (on social and affordable housing), but I would also contend that the one-size-fits-all interest rate consequent on our membership of EMU, which kept interest-rates too low for too long, was also a factor. I am not advocating withdrawal from EMU. Indeed I strongly support the idea that we no longer have fluctuating exchange-rates between 15 different currencies - thus preventing a recurrence of the 1992 currency-crisis during which unemployment rose to 16% as exports were hammered. Nonetheless, we may need to revisit that aspect of EMU that imposes the strait-jacket of the single interest rate on us, and it ought to be a warning against what can happen when you blindly walk the constitutional-plank into the shark-infested waters of transferring too much power to the unelected bureaucrats of Brussels, Frankfurt and Luxembourg. Something I hope Collins and the Irish Times one day wakes up to. For Cowen to follow Collins' advice would be tantamount to a reversion to an 18th-19th century, Edmund Burke concept of Government, in which what the latter called "the swinish multitude" i.e. the common people, are increasingly kept at arms length by the "men of property", in terms of political-power. The men and women of 1916 surely did not die for this.


Anonymous said...

Stand up for Free Europe !

Vote YES at

kerdasi amaq said...

It has been said that the Irish People are 1% of the population of the EU and it has been implied that it was wrong for them to have voted 'NO' because of this.

This 1% of the European population should keep this in mind, if the European Union is bringing in a measure which is bad for 1% but good for 99%, will the EU refrain from bringing in the measure for the sake of the 1%? Or will the Irish be told 'You are 1% of the population of the EU; you have no right to stop this measure being brought in'.

The Irish Liberal said...

of course the fat cats in europe will ignore the irish! we are only a spit floating out on the western tip of europe. at times i think the irish government regard us as the same.

kerdasi amaq said...

They can only ignore us if we vote YES the second time around.Then they can ignore us all they want.

I'm looking forward to voting NO once again.