“It is a real political mess..”

Today’s Irish Times editorialised about the “real political mess”, and French President Nicolas Sarkozy’s ‘Lisbon or Nice’ comments to the European Parliament, “We are gradually becoming aware of the damage done to Ireland’s reputation and loss of influence among political leaderships in existing and applicant states”, before ending on this note.

Most EU opinion agrees with Mr Sarkozy’s remark yesterday that “institutional things are for members of parliament, not referendums” but, alone among the 27states, we have a written Constitution which allows the people to decide.

It’s a point explored further by Ruth Barrington, a member of The Irish Times Trust and the board of The Irish Times Limited, in the comment section

Many commentators have suggested that a second referendum is unavoidable. If the Government decides on this course, it would seem sensible to clarify the reasons why a referendum is necessary. The Oireachtas could enact a Bill ratifying the Lisbon Treaty on the understanding that the President might use her discretion to refer the Bill to the Supreme Court under Article 26 for a test of its constitutionality. This would establish what exactly in the Lisbon Treaty requires a constitutional amendment. Any referral would have to be on the basis that, were the Supreme Court to find that the Lisbon Treaty did not require a constitutional amendment, a second referendum would be held. We would at least be clearer about why we are voting.

Not that her argument impressed Richard Delevan, who adds an interesting historical example of how a Treaty Constitutional referendum campaign should be held.

What does it say that the arguments and process around the US ratification 220 years ago are considered the vital and legitimate Enlightenment project that led to a remarkable result, and the present European process seems alternatively revolted and terrified of writing a simple deal, openly making the case for it and treating opponents as legitimate interlocutors?