red herring          Christmas turkey               dead duck?

I have to declare that the views canvassed here are rooted in my unadulterated federalism. I am happy to be European and envision an Irish democracy that would be centralised from Europe but localised at regional/provincial and parish levels. Though I am very wary of globalism and cultural homogenisation, I like the idea of Europe as a force to rival the United States. In general too I have supported legislation that has originated in Brussels.

Lisbon Treaty
I do not think that any of the other EU-driven constitutional amendments have been negative and I believe that Lisbon essentially proposed more of the same – in changed circumstances.

So I was appalled that our bigwig politicians sold the Treaty so ineptly to the populace. All the vim was on the No side; the Yessies were passionless. Only oily Dick Roche seemed to be au fait with the detail. Nor, despite Enda Kenny’s magnificent willingness to get three syllables out of the word Treaty, do I believe that the principal opposition parties made much effort – since a No vote was always going to embarrass the government more than them.

A Compromise
Why didn’t they just tell us that it was a compromise agreement between 27 nations altering the complex EU regime to reflect enlargement and the needs for more efficiency and to bolster the EU’s status internationally. That like most of the EU’s evolution it was neither a jolt to the right nor a jolt to the left, that the voting balance between small and big countries remains roughly as it was.

Indeed why didn’t they say anything that I can remember?

Instead they left it to a bunch of loony and dodgy rightists and the ultra-left at its worst, to set the mendacious agenda and paint the images in the public mind.

An exercise in democracy?
There are half a billion people in twenty-seven countries in the European Union. One country only – with a population of four million – got to vote on the Treaty. Of that four million only three million were eligible to vote and less than half that number actually did so. Of that number just over half voted No. Less than a million voted NO. But of that number how many actually said No to the Lisbon Treaty as opposed to No to unexplained legalese and buffoonish politicians? I would say, very conservatively, less than half. In other words less than half a million people out of 500 million really were against the substance of Lisbon. One thousandth of the EU citizenry put the spanner in the works.

If Europe dwindles as a force after Lisbon’s Irish defeat it will be a shocking exercise in anti-democracy.

Ireland’s new place in Europe
I think it will result in Ireland being perceived as arrogant. Throwing a turkey into Europe was the start of it. Voting No to an enhanced Europe is much more serious, especially after our schizophrenia over Nice. I predict following twenty years of being inexplicably fashionable, Ireland will now inexorably become as disliked as the British in Europe. Ironically our international superiority complex registered twenty years to the day after the death, with Ray Houghton’s goal in the England net, of our international inferiority complex.

So how did the mainstream politicians get it so badly wrong?
I think it was because they were terrified of saying the Lisbon Treaty was complex since they like earthy simplicities; because they hated to say it was a compromise because they have led us to believe we should only do what is in our unmitigated financial advantage; and because, being systemically visionless, they were unable to outline a vision of what Europe stands for and what Ireland gains and contributes to this vision.

And where do we go now?

Noises from Brussels suggest we’ll be invited to have another go – like we did with Nice. They’ll respect the vote but in a new sense of the word which requires the vote’s erasure. The problem is that there were no principal reasons why people voted No. Some form of parallel protocol will not work this time. You would have expected the massed political elite would have outmanoeuvred a disparate residue of outsiders and the misinformed, this time. But the motleyness itself made that residue impossible to counter. The No side only had to get lucky with one argument per voter. There is no reason, I believe, to think next time will be any different after we have been Euro-pressganged into an exercise in mature reflection.


2 Responses to “Lisboff”

  1. Hello Michael,

    I’m disappointed to see you subscribe to the idea that since the absolute number of no-voters in Ireland is very small with respect to the entire population of Europe, the vote somehow loses legitimacy.

    What grounds do you have for assumimg that put to the vote in all the countries of the EU, the Treaty would have been passed? After all, in its previous guise, it was rejected by the French and Dutch. Perhaps what we have here, rather, is a representative sample of pan-European opinion.

    You already know, I’m sure, that the British, Dutch, Danes and Swedes could easily vote the same way as Ireland. Won’t you add them, along with the Dutch and French to your total?

    Here in Italy, another previously pro-European country that has grown disenamoured of the whole European project, it would be a close-run battle. If theere were a fully democratic campaign in all member states, I suggest that Italy would add a fair number to the army of no-voters that started out as such a small force in little Ireland. Not so the Poles, Hungarians, Czechs and Romanians, because they care so little about the EU that they would probably have a turn-out of around 12%.

    Of course, most people in Holland, France and Ireland weren’t even considering the details of the Treaty/Constitution. People never do think straight, and rarely vote sensibly. If you are a democrat, it is something you have to live with. If you are not a democrat, then the EU, like the US electoral system and unfettered capitalism, are all easier to accept.

    Keep up the good work. I enjoy the blog enormously.

  2. “In other words less than half a million people out of 500 million really were against the substance of Lisbon.”

    Ditto to the above sentiments. To narrow the view down to those 500,000 ‘conscious’ NO Voters and then to ignore the 496 million other voters who were never asked their opinion and, due to not having any federalist fetishes whatsoever, but rather enjoying newfound sovereignty, might not have endorsed Lisbon remotely at all !

    I’m not sure how we test for voter cognition before we run referendums. I think that fortunately or unfortunately, the thickest and the brightest have an equal vote. The Dick Roche school of thought would have us believe that, like your basic thesis, so many were confused or clueless. We could more easily attribute that to the Yes side, in my considered view. Can’t you see that undermining voter intention gets us nowhere. A vote’s a vote, when its cast. Just like a score’s a score, no matter how its got. The Yes side did make a bags of things. Why should we defer and give a second chance?

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