Friday, October 2, 2009

Vote Yes and Throw the Dog a Lisbone!

After putting forward its arguments yesterday for voting No to Lisbon, today, in a fairly forced effort for balanced blogging, Head Down Eye's Opener Paul Conneally puts the case for voting Yes to Lisbone (sic).

It's Friday, 02 October 2009, and the people of Ireland shuffle to the polls to vote for the much debated but little understood Lisbon Treaty. The Lisbon Treaty markets itself (badly) as a tool to tighten up ineffective and costly administrative mechanisms, enhance greater coordination and promote a 'one Europe' culture.

Ireland of course has already voted "No to Lisbon" back in June of 2008, a result which infuriated many EU states, not least our French and German friends. And, because the 4 million voters of Ireland tried to derail the Lisbone, because we voted contrary to what our European masters advised, (are those democratic values I see running out the door?) we are being (t)asked again to go back to the polling booths and 'to try to get it right' this time.

This time of course the world, and especially Ireland, is a radically different place. We have been pounded and plundered by economic crisis; panel-bet into a reality check that could well be the (convenient) decisive factor that strong-arms the pliable Irish into doing what Brussels wants.

Last time out I closely followed the Lisbon debates, weighed up the pros and cons and, early on in the campaign, came out on the Yes side. By the time voting took place however, I had both feet embedded in the No camp.

Bullies and Bulldozing Bureaucracy

Without too many details I remember that I became angered by the arrogance and condescension of the Yes camp whose arguments basically involved nothing more sophisticated than "vote Yes because we are telling you to". The blackmailing language, the subliminal threats of being excluded from the EU, the insulting innuendo that Ireland had gotten enough cash out of Brussels and now we should just shut up and put up; Ireland by the way is a net contributor to the EU i.e. we put in more than we get out – all of these conspired to expose a raw Irish nerve.

Then, in the weeks running up to the vote, as I sat firmly on the fence, I had a long discussion with a French acquaintance (who is politically active in Paris). I was told if Ireland voted No we would end up in the stone age where we belonged! I was fairly taken aback by what I considered inherent racism and not a little lack of solidarity with a supposed fellow European citizen. Is that what the great powers in Europe really think of Ireland? Is our annoying habit to put such major decisions democratically to the people really so Neanderthal? Should we just ignore what our people decide (after tireless debate) as happened in the Netherlands (and France).

How would other EU states cope if they had the actual courage and commitment to allow their citizens to exercise their democratic rights? Instead of development through democratic evolution the EU has opted to construct from the centre with a cosmetic consultation with the people. It is correctly perceived as a bulldozing and bullying bureaucracy.

Sarkozy Sycophants

Ireland should not have been punished and criticized (even by non-EU wannabes like Croatia) for informing its people and allowing them to vote on a treaty which would define their future relationship with the EU. Irish people are stubborn at the best of times but when Sarkhozy sycophants are barking threats then you call their bluff. And we did (Sarkhozy was de facto ‘President of Europe’ at the time you may remember) and we rained on Sarkhozy's parade and not a small amount of EU fury emanated from that shallow, low-lying, cultist perspective.

Sixteen months down the road there are still good reasons to vote No and only a brainwashed ideologue would not be incensed by the dishonesty and deceptiveness of Brussels. But that does not make it OK for the No side to falsely propagate that young Irish people will be conscripted into a European army; that our treasured (if delusional) neutrality will be compromised (get real, that happened years ago); that we will lose our voting powers (isn't this normal when the EU expands to twice its original size? It's called proportionality which can be countered by forming strategic alliances and voting blocs).

It is incredible that despite the major upheaval (and not a little glee) caused during the last vote that the Yes side are still unable to convincingly argue their point. It is the best indicator by far on the complete abstraction that is Lisbone. The Yes-sirs are asleep at the wheel and prefer to intimidate Irish voters with economic punishment if they vote No. And, the Irish voters, by the way, know very well that this is not a vote for membership of the EU; it is a vote for Lisbone alone - so why oh why are the Yes side not simply promoting the positive sides of Lisbon rather than portraying the entire EU project in dark and simplistic Bushian terms - you are either with us or against us - Why not reassure instead of bluff and bully?

Vote No for Idaho

Despite all this, I am advocating for the Yes vote (recognizing that there are many unanswered questions). Why? Put simply, I think Ireland is good for Europe. We belong in Europe. We have contributed much, gained much and the journey has only started. Ireland can be far more constructive and proactive by shaping the future of the EU from within, through collaboration, debate and influencing policy. Ireland does not belong on the fringes of the EU. We probably have more citizens scattered around the EU than any other member. We have embraced the great mobility and advances made possible by the EU ideal and we owe it to ourselves (not to Brussels) to remain fully on board. We have earned it. We have prospered. We should fight the good fight from the very core of the center.

Realpolitik dictates that Europe will anyway find a way to circumvent a No vote (if it happens) to make Lisbon work for the EU's remaining 496 million citizens (admittedly defeatist but this is what realpolitik can mean). They could also hold a spiteful and begrudging disregard for a once blushing partner and inadvertently convert Ireland into an economic backwater. I will vote Yes because I don't want to risk Ireland becoming the Idaho of Europe, where we educate our young only to feed them to the big cities and industries of the European mainland. A country reduced to an identity of emigration that lays waste the EU vision that it helped shape.

At the end of the day, despite all the concerns, it has to be Yes (and, remember, voting Yes is not a vote for those hoodlums that run the country - they will be dealt with in a proper election in the near future; an election where they won't have the luxury to say "ah, excuse me there lads, that wasn't the vote we wanted. Ye wouldn’t mind, ahem, doin that once more there again, wouldya? Thanks". Besides, with the latest breaking news, our good beer-drinking, beer-brewing fellow European travellers in the Czech Republic could yet take the heat off us.



  1. "Last time out I closely followed the Lisbon debates, weighed up the pros and cons and, early on in the campaign, came out on the Yes side."

    And then, apparently, decided that a better way to decide was to vote against whichever campaign wound you up the most. I think your original approach might have been better.

  2. Fair Point but we should also be open to changing our mind and, in this case, when the Yes side have absolutely no convincing (or clear) arguments and resort simply to condescension and threats; it means they are pretty much undeserving of people's support.

  3. The main argument the Yes side seem to be holding onto is: if you don't vote yes, the economy will get worse, if you vote yes you'll get more jobs and we will recover.
    I find this hard to believe when we are voting on the same text from 2008, which was signed in 2007 before all this happened. How can there be an economic recovery plan in the Lisbon Treaty?
    There is no recovery plan, we are being bullied.

  4. You are technically correct of course but as we saw during the global financial crisis it is not so much about plans and budgets but about confidence and credibility. The majority of the Irish political system (not just the government) believes a No vote will shatter whatever bit of investor confidence might be growing again - and they are most probably right.

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