Sunday, December 7, 2008

Lisbon pressure threatens our democracy.

With the government telling everyone but us that it intends to call a second referendum on the rejected Lisbon Treaty, the time has come to call the EU and the Irish political, media and other elites to account for the threat to democracy that is inherent in their refusal to comply with the decision of the people last June. The referendum turnout, at 53%, was higher than that of Nice 2, when the number of no voters remained largely the same numerically but the "yes" vote rose by 400,000. After the first Nice treaty referendum, the Government and the Eurocrats argued that the low turnout of just 34% justified holding a second referendum, and it was held, resulting in a turnout that had risen by 17% to 51%. However in the Lisbon referendum, the no vote soared from 534,000 to 840,000 - a huge rise of over 300,000 - compared to the second Nice treaty referendum. As such, the elite find their arguments for a second vote confined to baseless scaremongering - including in the recent report of the Oireachtas Committee on Ireland's Future in Europe - such as attempting to create imagined links between the recession and the no vote (a marked insult to the people), implying that a no vote would mean expulsion from the European Union ('effectively voting ourselves out of Europe' as Gerald Barry put it on RTE's "This Week" radio show), or other vague contentions that we are 'isolated' in Europe, invoking (as Foreign Affairs Minister Micheál Martin did today on that latter programme) the history of European integration since 1957 as if to imply that European integration has always benefitted Ireland (a view that displaced Irish workers have reason to question). However, the more we hear from these people, the more deja vu it seems. It is likely a second referendum would mean in practice a rehash of the failed arguments of the Lisbon I campaign, but with a dose of McCarthyism added in with respect to anti-Treaty thinktank Libertas and particularly its founder Declan Ganley. As usual these consist largely of European Affairs Minister Dick Roche appearing on Prime Time and the weekend current affairs shows digging for dirt about Ganley's business dealings in the States, while finding - as usual - no evidence of illegality. And even if it were otherwise (which it wasn't), what suddenly makes Fianna Fáil the paragons of virtue in terms of political and corporate-ethics? Has Minister Roche forgotten the circumstances surrounding the departure of his former leader already? Can't he remember the 11 years of Tribunal revelations from Dublin Castle that has rightly caused masses of the Irish people - including up to 40% of Fianna Fáil voters - to take Fianna Fáil's promises and claims with a grain of salt? That is why none of this stuck in the first campaign and in all likelihood, will backfire in the second campaign.

But we shouldn't even be having a second campaign without substantial changes to the text of this Treaty. It is by far the most dangerous document ever to be presented to an Irish electorate or parliament since the Act of Union, and represents the funeral march of democracy within the European Union. A Union founded on democracy would become one founded on dictatorship of unelected bureaucrats in Brussels and Luxembourg (the seat of the European Court of Justice), and one in which Ireland and other small member states revert to the colonial status they spent centuries fighting and shedding blood to extract themselves from. What would De Valera think of placing a document like the Charter of Fundamental Rights supersede the Constitution he founded and passed in 1937? Or about a voting system that weighted the vote of Ireland on the Council of Ministers according to population by removing the overepresentation of small countries, as if we were a mere constituency of a superstate like in when we were part of the British Empire (except we had 20% of the MPs in the House of Commons compared to 2% in the European Parliament). As the architect of Irish neutrality, what would he think of our participation in the EU Battlegroups and the European Defence Agency, as well as the requirement in the Lisbon treaty that we "progressively increase" our military-capability? Of of the prospect, plain to see in the Referendum Bill 2008 that the Government may cede its veto on Justice and Home Affairs without recourse to a referendum? This is just my opinion but I firmly believe he would turn in his grave. The answer is still no, and will remain so until the elite comes back with a document that respects not only our no vote to the substantive issue last June, but also those of France and the Netherlands, whose democratic-voices are being trampled upon by the jackboots of Brussels and its faceless bureaucrats.

For 20 years 30-54% of voters turning out have been voting no and no publication has been representing them in the press. In that context the entry of the Sunday Times, Irish Mail/MoS and the Irish Sun has been a breath of fresh air and it isn't simply a case of being inducted into some purely British-ideology. Most Irish eurocritics are, unlike the UK Eurosceptics, pro-EU membership and even the Euro currency but oppose this Treaty. We differ from the pro-Lisbon folks in that we don't confuse being a good European with being a compliant one. Ultimately, we are the real pro-Europeans because we are standing up for Europe's traditional democratic foundations upon which the EU was built. Lisbon is an attempt by Brussels at sabotaging those foundations (unwitting or intentional) and if it succeeds will collapse the project in the longterm. The French and Dutch voted no, and their wishes are not being respected either by their own parliaments/govts or by ours. I believe that there is more to Europe than the politicians and their grand-designs. The 500 million EU citizens are the real Europe, and the cowardly way that their politicians ran away from promises of referenda when the French and Dutch voted no in 2005 demonstrates a fear of and resistance to allowing the peoples of Europe a direct say by referenda in matters concerning institutional reform in and transfer of sovereignty to the EU institutions. I am pro-EU, but I don't think this Treaty is consistent with maintaining popular support for the European project in the longterm. The EU will only survive with popular consent, and steamrolling something through against the democratically-expressed wishes of its nations (at citizen-level not just the elite) will only bring a Bastille moment closer. I don't want that to happen, and welcome a no vote as an opportunity for the EU to undergo the exercise in soulsearching and democratic-reforms that it failed to engage in following the French and Dutch no votes. Voting no is a positive, pro-EU step - not an anti-EU one.

1 comment:

kerdasi amaq said...

Well said, that pretty much sums up how I feel about the European Project.