The referendum season is really rolling now that we’re just over a week to polling day. The Fianna Fáil campaign which was initially slow to get out of the blocks, received a real lift when Taoiseach Cowen finally got his seat at the top table and immediately injected some pace taking to the country in a full scale canvass effort. In fairness to him it’s the kind of thing ususally reserved for general election efforts and he really laid down a marker for the rest of the pro-treaty parties to follow (just realised the irony in describing FF as pro treaty but that’s one for the anoraks:)
I will be voting Yes, not just because the big man say so, (although as an FF activist I am highly motivated to deliver a successful first outing for him) but also because I have studied the issues and concluded it is the right thing to do. The treaty enhances democracy, streamlines procedures, makes sensible procedural adjustments and ensures equality across all member states, no mean feat considering the extremes of size and weight across the union. In fact countries like Ireland end up punching above our weight with the same presence at the table as Germany, France or any the other larger member states. Sure we lose a comissioner for 5 out of every 15 years, but so does everyone else and we all know above a certain critical mass a committee can no longer function effectively. The treaty is hard to sell because there are no big new ideas like the single currency or enlargement, but rather housekeeping, making the union work better from within and without. National and the European parliament have greatly increase powers increasing the democratic ethos of the union, whilst the citizens’ charter enables participative democracy on a grand pan-european scale. Interestingly this million-sig petition idea came from John Gormley who similarly has comparable ideas at local level in the recent local government green paper. The treaty has been in progress for over ten years, and I believe in order for the union to continue to function these changes are essential – the status quo is not an option. At the end of the day the key agreements were forged under the Irish presidency when then Taoiseach Bertie Ahern and then Minister for Foreign Affairs Brian Cowen put 90% of it together.
Lastly on the local scene, the Taoiseach and our very own Commissioner McCreevy were in town last week where I joined them for a whistlestop tour up Naas main street. Reaction was good as most people are engaged at this point with minds focussing during the closing stages and more and more information coming onstream. Most the local councillors have personalised posters up at this stage signifying the final rallying round before the big day. Top points for european exposure go to Paddy Mac and the Labour posters which one could be forgiven for taking as local election posters so faint is the white Lisbon related text buried away in the top corner above a huge photo and name plate. In fairness to Paddy it seems to be the Labour template as I’ve seen them in Dublin too with all the Labour councillors and why not, they might as well kill two birds at one stone – recycling at its best. A cynical thought did strike me though – with the left so split on the issue, could they possibly be attempting to have it both ways with maximum profiling on the issue and yet a degree of detachment from the message. Play the man not the treaty.. Given Gilmore’s vigorous championing on various news programmes it’s hardly the official line but to the man on the street looking at a poster, name association achieved with minimal baggage?? Far fetched perhaps but fiendishly cute at the same time!