For the want of a nail the Treaty could be lost…

I have a lot of sympathy with the Republic’s Finance Minister Brian Lenihan when he asks the electorate to be wary of the various unelected pressure groups (Libertas perhaps being the most notable). We don’t know for certain who is behind Libertas. And the Minister is also right when he argues:

…all the major political parties whom the citizens of this country have supported election after election are united in strongly urging a ‘Yes’ vote in the best interests of this country. The people know and have resided considerable trust in many who are calling for a yes vote. That counts in a democratic country and nobody should be frightened by the scare-mongering tactics of a minority of vociferous and highly motivated groups who have disappeared into the shadows after each referendum campaign.

The problem is that a referendum is an appeal to the broad spread of the people as the final executors of the state. At that moment, the political parties of the state only become other bit players in the drama. The government had an advantage here, insofar as they chose the timing of the debate. After that all bets are off. Libertas, Coir and the dozen other micro groups do not need a mandate to pull this off. They just need to be better than the Super Coalition.

Ironically, and at the 11th hour, Meath East TD Tommy Byrne has hit upon a crowd sourcing idea for fielding people’s concerns about the treaty. As Cian notes at Irish Election, it’s preferable to the scary apocalyptic stuff that’s being pumped out (in desperation?) elsewhere.

The French (one of the countries set to gain out of the Lisbon Treaty arrangements) are getting heavy about who suffers if Ireland’s answer is Non! In fact, French foreign minister Bernard Kouchner warning that “the first victim . . . would be the Irish” looks to be aimed squarely at the Cowen led government in the event they refuse to relaunch the Titanic and have a second referendum.

He did not pull his punches: “Everyone is going to ratify it. It would be very, very, very troubling . . . that we not be able to count on the Irish, who counted a lot on Europe’s money.”

Ouch! Lara Marlowe for the Irish Times in Paris:

If Ireland votes No, Dr Kouchner said the French presidency would pursue implementation of the treaty, all the while “trying to convince the Irish who have already re-voted once on the Nice Treaty to put this treaty back on the drawing board”.

A second Irish vote “is starting to be envisaged everywhere”, he said, but “a little incomprehension is going to transform itself into gigantic incomprehension. You won’t face up to things by being alone; on the contrary, the Irish would truly penalise themselves.”

In contrast, Declan Ganley of Libertas told Mary Fitzgerald he believed Ireland could get a better deal out of saying No:

“We have to keep our commissioner; we cannot have our voting weight halved at the European Council while Germany’s is doubled; we need a protocol on taxation to protect our competitiveness economically, and if there is going to be a president of Europe and a foreign minister of Europe these people need to be democratically accountable.”

Of course, as the Minster says, none of these groups “will be around to cope with the consequences for this country if we reject the Lisbon Treaty”. But that’s the deal when you give the vote to the people to decide. If you force them to subsist on the thin gruel of ‘party gaming’ (and the UK is little better on this), you have little leverage left at the vital point in the campaign.

Last Saturday Stephen Collins argued that a No vote would show a lack of confidence in the Republic’s politicians:

Regardless of whether the treaty is carried or lost, those involved in politics need to ask themselves serious questions about the kind of democracy we have. General election results suggest we are close to becoming a one-party state, yet on major issues of public policy, including referendums, a substantial proportion of the electorate seems to have no faith in those who run the State.

Win or lose, the success of this asymmetrical warfare is an indictment of Ireland’s populist approach to all things political. Focus on the constituency combined with party self interest trumps the national interest every time.

Libertas, in appointing a non Eurosceptic to lead the campaign (a stroke of genius, cynical or otherwise) has focused on bringing an argument to the table to which Ireland’s party machines, with all the immense resources they have had to hand, have been unable to find a timely answer.

Losing this vote will sting some people within those parties to the core. And give them pause to think more deeply, not simply about the Lisbon Treaty but about the very way they conduct politics. As the old saying goes: “For the want of a nail…”

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  • kensei

    The pro-Treaty side still hasn’t bothered making a case for the treaty on its merits; Lenihan’s comments are just the latest in attempting to browbeat, patronise and scare the electorate.

    The French contribution, however, takes some beating. Not only is it somewhat rich for CAP masters France to berate anyone for taking European money, I don’t recall that anyone suggested that France should revote after they rejected the previous effort. Moreover, there’s no guarantee they wouldn’t do so again, if they were actually given the chance.

    If they did force a rerun, I’d guess public anger would be a little more stoked this time and more likely to repeat the message. Attempting to ignore it could seriously unravel the European project, since I’d guess there are more small European nations than simply Ireland that would be alarmed.

    I generally like Europe. But this is just about a summation of everything that’s wrong with it. I suspect the Yes vote will sneak through, mores the pity.

  • Mark McGregor

    At the debate in Belfast last night, Alban Maginnis was reduced at one point to alleging dodging funding, shadey practices and hidden backers by one of the groups in the No campaign. Of course Alban didn’t have the balls to name the group or state what any of his claims related to. And the No campaign gets accused of scaremongering when this utterly juvenille level of debate is being raised by Yes backers. Though his return to post-nationalism was interesting with a call for the end to nation states in addition to denying he was a nationalist.

  • RepublicanStones

    Postal vote is away….big fat Níl. But i fear Kensi is correct, the YES might sneak it. The amount of money being spent on their campaign as opposed to the no camp is quite stark. Alot of people haven’t a clue what its about, many people with the glass half full look of life will prefer to put an x beside YES simply because its a more positive word than NO. Nobody can deny this is the makings of a Superstate, which would make Irelands opinion/say on matters the political equivlent of a handbrake in a canoe.

  • ZoonPol

    The BBC has a got Web on the pros and cons of the Reform Treaty.

  • EWI

    We don’t know for certain who is behind Libertas

    Yes, we do – Rivada Networks, which works for the US security services, is chaired by Ganley, exec’d by US military and intelligence officers, and is actual employer of Libertas’ “members” – McGuirk and the rest of those twentysomething ex-Freedom Instituters.


    I think you mean ‘Youth Defence’…

    Of course, as the Minster says, none of these groups “will be around to cope with the consequences for this country if we reject the Lisbon Treaty”.

    And, conversely, I hear no-one admitting that Patricia McKenna et al were absolutely right about EU military adventurism (see our being French lackeys in Chad at this moment. So much for our “proud tradition of UN peacekeeping”). Most of the politicians now advocating Lisbon will not be lining up to take responsibilty when ‘No’ prediction come true.

    Libertas, in appointing a non Eurosceptic to lead the campaign

    Who, Ganley? You jest, surely.

  • Dave

    “In fact, French foreign minister Bernard Kouchner warning that “the first victim . . . would be the Irish” looks to be aimed squarely at the Cowen led government in the event they refuse to relaunch the Titanic and have a second referendum.” – Mick Fealty

    Yet we are being asked to concede more national sovereignty to people who even the Irish government admit would act with malicious intent towards us if we do not accede to their will, giving priority to their wishes as opposed to the will of the Irish people. Where is the logic in giving these people the power to act in our best interests when they clearly don’t give a toss about them? Why give more power to people who are far from the benevolent democrats they falsely portray themselves as being? Why transfer more of our democratic sovereignty to those who have nothing but contempt for democracy and national sovereignty? There is absolutely no sane or sensible reason to do this.

    Under the Lisbon Treaty we would have no representation at all at commissioner level for 5 out of every 15 years, and our power to determine our own laws in a plethora of areas that we currently have 100% control over via our democratic parliament would be reduced to 0.8% control as those sovereign powers would be transferred to the EU.

    In regard to Brian Lenihan: your sympathy is misplaced. It is the duplicitous policy of the EU in collusion with national governments to make the treaty unintelligent to voters in order to claim that it is right and proper for national parliaments to ratify the treaty, denying the citizens of the member states the right to vote on a treaty that alters their fundamental constitutional and human rights. It is then the policy of government to say, “You must trust us to act in your best interests. You must not think for yourself. Just do what we say and everything will be fine.” That is the tactic that Mr Lenihan is deploying. It is the deliberate tactic of the EU. He is not saying that is the best interests of the Irish, rather he is saying it because that it what the EU has instructed him to say.

    Even Garret Fitzgerald, a raving pro-EU looney, admitted in the The Irish Times that a massive fraud and perversion of democracy is occurring wherein the rejected Reform Treaty is rehashed as the Lisbon Treaty and presented again to the voters until they give the right vote (i.e. a ‘Yes’ vote):

    “Virtual incomprehensibility has thus replaced simplicity as the key approach to EU reform. As for the changes now proposed to be made to the constitutional treaty, most are presentational changes that have no practical effect. [b]They have simply been designed to enable certain heads of government to sell to their people the idea of ratification by parliamentary action rather than by referendum.[/b]”

    Except, of course, it isn’t presented again to the voters. The voters gave the wrong vote last time and so they are not allowed to vote again. Only the Irish may vote this time because our constitution decrees that sovereignty resides with the people and not with the government. The German Chancellor, Angela Merkel, said, “The substance of the constitution is preserved. That is a fact.” So it is clear that the will of those who are engineering the EU is to take priority over the will of the citizens of the member states of the EU. As Spock would say, “It’s democracy, Captain. But not as we know it.”

    We must not transfer the powers of our democracy to people who have only the upmost contempt for democracy, and we must not trust others with those powers to act as benevolent rulers exercising sovereignty on our behalf when even the Irish government admit are the type of blackguards who would act with malice towards us for the dismal crime of exercising our right to vote No.

  • Slugger O’Toole Admin


    Who, Ganley? You jest, surely.

    No. I was referring to Naoise Nunn.

  • Libertas’s origins are unimportant. They have complied with SIPO guidelines and have only accepted money from Irish citizens. The elites have their own questions to answer about money – especially the man who negotiated the Treaty on behalf of Ireland – Bertie Ahern – who is in and out of the Tribunals like a fiddlers elbow.

    The Treaty doubles German’s vote while halving Ireland’s. Article 48 denies us the automatic right to referenda on EU treaties, while Article 6 changes the voting system so that 4 Big States can block EU laws but 11 small countries cannot. We lose our Commissioner for 5 out of 15 yrs whereas Nice gave us a veto on a smaller Commissioner. The Treaty is a rehash of the rejected EU Constitution from France and Holland. Vote no.

  • EWI

    Libertas’s origins are unimportant.

    The hell they are. Rivada (which is what Libertas is) is inextricably linked to the US government. As such, while I hesitate to use the word traitors…

  • Dave

    EWI, as Mick Fealty will tell you (when it suits his purpose), argue against the message and not against the man. Why he now feels the motives of the man matter (“We don’t know for certain who is behind Libertas”) in relation to Libertas is his own business, even if he feels “sympathy” for appeals to authority that are clear fallacies of logic such as the one made by Brian Lenihan. But here is their message:

    [b]8 Reasons to Vote No to Lisbon [/b]

    [b]1. Creates an unelected President and a Foreign Minister of Europe[/b]

    The new President and Foreign Minister for Europe will be appointed by the European Council by qualified majority vote. Although many of the terms and conditions of these roles have yet to be decided, they will be committed through the Lisbon Treaty to “drive forward” the agenda of the Council and discussions have already taken place to provide a presidential palace and executive jet for the President.

    [b]2. Halves Ireland’s voting weight while doubling Germany’s[/b]

    The Lisbon Treaty would implement a new system of voting by the European Council which is primarily based on population size. This means that Ireland’s voting weight would be reduced from 2% at present to 0.8% if the Treaty was implemented, while Germany’s would increase from 8% to 17%.

    [b]3. Abolishes Ireland’s Commissioner for five years at a time[/b]

    The Lisbon Treaty proposes to reduce the number of Commissioners to two thirds of the number of member states. This would mean that, on a rotating basis, Ireland would have no seat for five years out of every 15 in the body that has the monopoly on initiating legislation. This would clearly affect a small country like Ireland to a far greater extent than, for example, Germany which is having its voting weight doubled under the Treaty.

    [b]4. Opens the door to interference in tax and other key economic interests[/b]

    Article 113 of the Lisbon Treaty specifically inserts a new obligation on the European Council to act to avoid “distortion of competition” in respect of indirect taxes. The proposals for a common consolidated tax base and the commitment of the French government to pursue it combined with a weakening of Ireland’s voice in Europe through the loss of a permanent Commissioner and halving of its voting weight represent a clear and present danger to our tax competitiveness.

    [b]5. Hands over power in 60 areas of decision making to Brussels[/b]

    The Lisbon Treaty provides for more than 60 areas of decision making from unanimity at present to qualified majority voting. Some of those areas include decision-making on immigration, sport, culture, transport and the appointment of the European President and Foreign Minister.

    [b]6. Gives exclusive competence to Brussels over International Trade and Foreign Direct Investment[/b]

    For the first time, under the Lisbon Treaty foreign direct investment would become an exclusive competence of the EU as part of its common commercial policy. This means that the tools which have been used so successfully by the IDA to attract tens of thousands of jobs to Ireland will become the sole preserve of the European Union and the Irish Government will have to seek permissions

    [b]7. Enshrines EU law as superior to Irish law[/b]

    On June 12th we will be voting on the 28th amendment to the Irish Constitution which clearly restates the following:

    11° No provision of this Constitution invalidates laws enacted, acts done or measures adopted by the State that are necessitated by the obligations of membership of the European Union referred to in subsection 10° of this section, or prevents laws enacted, acts done or measures adopted by the said European Union or by institutions thereof, or by bodies competent under the treaties referred to in this section, from having the force of law in the State.”

    [b]8. The Treaty can be changed without another referendum[/b]

    Article 48 of the Treaty enables changes to be made to it after ratification without the constitutional requirement for another referendum in Ireland. This is confirmed by the independent Referendum Commission on its website which states: there “may” be a requirement for a referendum to implement such changes.

  • 0b101010

    Maybe, quite simply, a fairly new republic just isn’t as likely to want to hand more of its long sought-after sovereignty to a remote super-state. I hope we see a “No.”

  • Cormac Mac Art

    EWI, you’re right to be worried about Libertas’s links to another government. They have every right in the world to say no, but when you trace their pedigree … If the cap fits (which I don’t know that it does, in this case), I for one would have no trouble shouting “Treason!”