Left at Lisbon

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!

4 Replies to “Left at Lisbon”

  1. certain people

    The Treaty does not ensure equality across all member states. The new QMV rules are heavily biased towards the countries with larger populations, such that nothing will ever happen if Germany, France, Italy and Spain don’t want it to. On the other hand, Ireland could object to every proposal under QMV and lose out every time.
    Also, the loss of a Commissioner will hit Ireland harder than the bigger nations – they have much more influence by virtue of their size, but the idea of Ireland having no say for 5/15 years on the initiation of EU law, that’s losing a lot.
    National parliaments get an advisory role, they don’t have to be listened to. Neither does the Citizens Initiative. It’s not increased democracy, it’s an enhanced illusion of democracy.
    And just how democratic is it for the Dutch and French to reject the EU Constitution in referenda, only to have the same thing in a different format put back to them without a vote?

  2. Antoine

    Please Irish People, in the name of Europeans peoples , vote NO !

    See the comments below this french article http://www.liberation.fr/actualite/monde/330142.FR.php
    Most of the commentators wish Ireland could vote NO.

    If ever it’d happened, this would be a huge slap in the face of the European Commision technocrats who are completely disconnected from reality. The current way the European Union is designed is mainly in the interest of politicians, media and corporations and definitely not in the interest of the majority of the people.

    If ever Ireland voted YES, Europe would become the poodle-puppet of the USA, specially into military domains.

    Please, be wise, vote NO and do not fear the pressure of the press and of politicians.

  3. Arthur Shirran

    A. Response to inaccuracies as stated by Certain people’

    The response from ‘Certain People’ above is inaccurate. The QMV arrangements have been specifically designed to ensure that a group of large countries cannot dominate the council.

    Let me explain QMV as best I can. From 2014, a qualified majority will be defined as at least 55% of the members of the council, comprising at least 15 of them AND representing member states comprising at least 65% of the population of the union.

    Therefore it is incorrect to say that Germany, France, Italy and Spain can dominate. The total population of this group is approx. 243 million, this is only 50% of the population of the EU. This is way under the 65% limit. Even if the UK and Greece were included in the group it would not push it over the line.

    B. Response to Antoine.

    Antoine the Lisbon treaty will put in place steps to provide a military dimension to the EU in the future. This will allow Europe to defend itself and its interests. It will also allow Ireland and other neutrals to opt out of any military arrangement if they wish. How on earth will this allow Europe to be the poodle of the US. The only poodle of the US is the UK because they allow its military bases on their territory and have no mind of their own ref. Iraq.

  4. Arthur Shirran


    I agree the treaty is a hard sell. Not only are most people not prepared to spend time researching it but they are easily sacred by the lies of some in the no campaign.

    A Fine Gael member explained the problem of campaigning for a yes vote to the trial of a murderer. The defense team (i.e. the No side) only have to prove reasonable doubt (i.e. by lies and deceit in this case) while the prosecution (the yes side) have to wade through all the evidence and explain the detail. Which is extremely difficult with this treaty. In my view it is made even harder by the fact that the people (the jury) are not even listening to the evidence.

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.