they don’t get it

I’m talking about the Lisbon Treaty again, obviously. There were several Lisbon related radio interviews with senior members of the government as they seek to promote a Yes vote. If their minds were sharpened by the reported swing to No in the Irish times then there was little evidence of it. I’ll summarise the interviews with my own partisan if, hopefully, accurate recollections.
Mary Harney was on George Hook’s Newstalk show. She wants everyone to know the health service is doing better than you think. She also wants everyone to be aware that the scare tactics that may be used by some No campaigners are nonsense. It was so important to get this point across that she launched into a tirade at the start of his show without waiting for him to ask a question. It’s not going to bring about abortion in Ireland or an end to our (partisan?) neutrality, directly anyway. Although it may be premature to suggest involvement in a European defence force is off the table.
Anyway, George hit her with one of his famous verbal right hooks when he pointed out that none of the callers, texters and emailers believed the rumours anyway. These were a “non-issue”. So the swing to No is not about rumours, it’s about people simply not being able to understand a highly and IMHO deliberately complex document that their government is suggesting they sign without reading.
Pat Kenny gave the Taoiseach a grilling. He repeatedly called him “minister” which was quite funny. Our Taoiseach doesn’t feel you should read it, just sign the dotted line. You have to do it because we’ll just be asked to vote again as there’s “no plan B”. It’s nice that our BIFFO Taoiseach (BIFFOT) thinks he’s the ruler of some kind of quasi dictatorship where he feels he can openly declare intent to wear the electorate (his subjects?) down until they do his bidding. Pat put him on the spot by reminding him that he had said before assuming the role of Taoiseach that the leader should be “held accountable for the result of the treaty referendum”. BIFFOT stated that he wasn’t going to step down a month after taking office. Pat didn’t let it go and the conclusion to the interview was enjoyably stormy.
Even funnier was Dick Roche’s insistence to Joe Duffy that it’s just one of those contracts that you sign but don’t read. Hey Dick, do you want to buy a bridge in Brooklyn? Sure why would you bother when we can trust in the negotiating powers of these fine (pathetic excuse for) leaders? Joe asked him to provide 5 reasons why they should vote yes. Dick’s waffle suggested that he didn’t know any but felt we should be “good Europeans”. A mantra he reiterated again and again.
So who will be disappointed if we vote No? Germany. That’s about it. Some of the eastern european countries may feel we’ve let them down but they’ll get over it as they’re still free to come and work here. However, any perception that we’ve let our fellow Europeans down should be tempered by national concerns. After all, we elected these muppets to rule Ireland. If we accede to this we’re letting our nation down. We’ll cast aside the blood and toil of the founders or our state that our duplicitous politicians of all parties celebrate when the fancy takes them. We’ll render our own imperfect but well intenioned constituion redundant. We’re letting future generations down as we cede our sovereignty to a federal superstate of which we are a tiny part. A fraction of a percent in a Qualified Majority Vote. We already have a constitution and laws so I don’t mind if unanimity on voting in the EU means the tail (ireland) sometimes wags the proverbial dog (germany, france etc.)
To understand the implications of ratifiaction for Ireland it’s worth thinking about the most salient symbol of our EU involvement to date, the Euro and the EMU. Consider the effect of a rise in ECB interest rates on the turbulent Irish economy. On Irish homeowners who are struggling to pay their inflated mortgages? It’s arguably the wrong thing for Ireland right now and no Irish government would independently take that approach. But no Irish government can now decide as the ECB has responsibilty for the EuroZone where we are a tiny part. We’ve ridden our luck as low interest rates suited Germany’s long period of rebuilding following reunification. It currently doesn’t suit and Ireland finds itself entirely beholden to the economic policy of another country with none of the usual mechanisms (interest rates, currency control) to control the supply/demand valve.
So you can view the Lisbon Treaty as like the EMU with its lack of control for a small country like us but for social issues also. It really streamlines the decision making process when you can use your assumed power, population and wealth to dictate financial and social policy to less powerful countries for their own good. Ratification of this treaty will absolutely help Europe to function better, more efficiently. If you’re german or perhaps french.
But the French don’t want this as they’re a proud and patriotic bunch with their own ideas of social governance as represented by their liberty, fraternity and equality tricolour. Just remember that France and the Netherlands rejected the EU constitution in 2005. Extracts from that find their way unmodified into this document but France and the Netherlands are not being asked to vote again. This kind of political chicanery has been the resort of despots and tyrants throughout history. I genuinely believe that many of the architects of both the EU consitution and this treaty are well intentioned and brilliant individuals. However, believing in democratic government is a committment to the theory that the “end doesn’t justify the means” and that the people (demos in ancient greek) should be able to exercise power (cratos…) Therefore the commission’s approach to ratifying this treaty is simply unreasonable. Instead of the people, the treaty is being put to members of European super parties in their national parliaments to vote along party lines. Again, the process becomes much more.. efficient!
Voting No to Lisbon is step one is reasserting our right to manage our own country. It’s a vote for democratic governance throughout Europe. The next step would be to find a group of leaders who are up to the job.