44 days to Lisbon: but politicians cut their campaign from 4 to 2 weeks…

You know what? The smart money has to be on a Yes to the Lisbon treaty. Libertas has left the field having had most of its most effective TPMs punctured by the slightly scatological fix that is the so-called legal guarantees. The climate this year is way colder than last, and there’s that tapping finger to remind voters of the one letter difference between Ireland and Iceland, with the implication that the real difference between solvency and bankruptcy is membership of the European Union. Even Sinn Fein is complaining that it’s having difficulty in fundraising this time round… But Elaine Byrne doesn’t see much action on the pro side either, and wonders if the mainstream party’s are about to blow it for a second time

With 44 days to go, our politicians are still on their holidays. When the Dáil and Seanad return on September 16th, it will only be two weeks to referendum day.

The first Lisbon referendum marked a profound rejection of the Irish political establishment. A majority of the voting public did not believe the pro-treaty explanations advocated by Fianna Fáil, Fine Gael, the Labour Party, the Greens and the Progressive Democrats. Instead they trusted Sinn Féin, Libertas and a medley of Catholic conservative and pro-neutrality groups.

This time, our political class has stepped back and civil society has stepped up. A number of pro-Lisbon groups launched their campaigns in July under the slogans of Women for Europe, We Belong and Ireland for Europe. So, instead of placing our hope in the political leadership of Brian Cowen, Enda Kenny, Eamon Gilmore and John Gormley, it is now in the hands of Nell McCafferty, Bill Cullen and The Edge. For direction on Europe, we now turn to our sporting heroes Packie Bonner, Robbie Keane and Denis Hickey.

There’s something very deeply wrong here.

Hang on: yes of course civic involvement in Irish public life should be eagerly embraced. Politics is no longer the exclusive preserve of politicians. Active citizenship politics probably has some way to go when compared to that of our European neighbours.

No, what’s utterly alarming is that our politicians are stepping back precisely at the point when we need them to jump forward.

It also reads like an alarming collapse in confidence amongst the political class as a whole… But, as Byrne notes, that’s not even the half of it. And it’s more than Sinn Fein that’s broke in the south:

Today, in the absence of political leadership, it is civil society we turn to. Irish politics is steadily imploding. Informal conversations and access to all of the political party’s financial accounts, (except Fianna Fáil’s), suggest that our political parties are in severe financial difficulty. Democracy is not free. Under the legislation, elections and referendums can only be funded by donations.

An expectation that political parties will mount a sustained campaign to pass the Lisbon referendum assumes that they have the resources to do so. Professional campaigning costs money and political parties don’t have it. In the future, will financial considerations determine the setting of a date for a referendum in order to avoid the implications of the McKenna judgment (see also Crotty and Coughlan), or decisions not to contest a presidential election, or pushing the boat out for a snap election?

The country’s heading for some pretty hot water (in or out of Lisbon). Byrne goes on to note that some of its biggest decisions will be made in the Autumn by a government with a steadily dwindling majority (and a Ceann Comhairle whose ministerial receipts would have him drummed out of any major Westminster party). The decisive call may come from a man Fintan O’Toole called a liar and cheat last April. And a Fine Gaeler to boot, until he was kicked to touch by then party leader John Bruton…

Deja vu all over again…? If ever Ireland needed a break with the past it was now… but what kind of break will almost certainly come down to happenstance than through any deliberate action on the part of the government, or even the people… Up to now there has been little sense that there is anyone prepared to define and take forward anything remotely approximating ‘the national interest’…

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  • Klooy

    At least the Icelanders had the decency to kick their Government out, nationalise the banks and get in some serious fraud types (William Black, Eva Joli). Ireland appears to be content to shuffle slowly into oblivion.

  • Dave

    Nell McCafferty, founder of Women For Europe, is at least honest when she said that she supports the Lisbon treaty because she doesn’t support democracy, i.e. the right of the people to determine their own affairs, make their own laws, etc. She claimed that she wants to live “under the protection of the EU” and not “in a country ruled exclusively by (an) Irish government”.

    Fair enough. Anti-democratic fascism is nothing new. However, she was given a rousing cheer from the Europhiliaic muppets at the launch of Women For Europe when claimed that the alternative to supporting the Lisbon treaty was that the Irish government would send women “barefoot, pregnant and back at the kitchen sink” and told her audience to “throw that kitchen sink back at them and vote Yes”.

    Hilarious, and typical of the quality of the arguments proffered by Europhiles.

  • There might just have been an argument to support the Lisbon Treaty (LT) in the 2008 Irish referendum, although I do not see it myself, but it is impossible to make a valid case to vote in favor of the LT in the forthcoming October 2009 referendum, as this second referendum in itself is a massive betrayal of the democratic will of the Irish people. At the 2008 referendum, which took place a year ago last June, the Irish people rejected the Lisbon Treaty. The main reason for the no vote was the EU’s lack of democratic accountability, not the idea of the Union itself, as the Irish majority are far from hostile to the EU.

    It was the democratic deficit that made a majority vote no or abstain from voting, the deciding factor was that not a single senior EU figure, whether Commissioner or bureaucrat, is placed into office by the democratic vote of the tax payers who pay their over inflated salaries.

    More here,
    http://www.organizedrage.com/2009/08/2009-irish-referendum-reject-lisbon.html

  • Dave

    “The main reason for the no vote was the EU’s lack of democratic accountability, not the idea of the Union itself, as the Irish majority are far from hostile to the EU.” – Mickhall

    That’s very true, and it is also why these Europhile groups are ignoring the contents of the Lisbon treaty and treating the campaign as if it was a referendum on Ireland’s EU membership. They are focusing on Ireland’s membership of the EU and on what they allege were advantages of it rather than focusing on what form the EU itself should take – which is what the treaty focuses on.

    Clearly, the ‘democratic deficit’ will become far worse for Ireland if the Lisbon treaty is ratified with, for example, Ireland’s share of the vote in the EU parliament being reduced to 0.8% (and falling still more as other countries join) and the removal of the national veto in a swath of areas and, of course, the self-amending provision that allows the treaty to be changed by the EU AFTER the Irish public have approved it so that the people are if effect signing their state unconditionally.

    The ‘argument’ proffered by the Europhiles is essentially that Ireland should surrender the democratic powers of its state to the EU because if it doesn’t then they will be thrown out of the EU. In fact, all that will happen if Ireland rejects this treaty is that the Czech and the Polish Presidents will not sign it, and the British government will have to hold a referendum on it, wherein the British people will overwhelmingly reject the treaty. Ireland will not be alone in rejecting this treaty.

  • RepublicanStones

    Excellent posts Dave and Mick, and I do recall the ‘we could be thrown out’ scaremongering which went on during the last campaign.

    Turnout will be lower I fear (Lisbon fatigue), which will affect the no vote more than the yes i think.

    It seems Cowen and co. are fans of Henry Ford, because we can all have a say on the Lisbon treaty….just so long as its a yes !

  • Mick

    It all rather reminds me of the classic lyric from (Everybody’s free to wear) Sunscreen.

    “Accept certain inalienable truths:
    Prices will rise.
    Politicians will philander.
    You, too, will get old.

    And when you do, you’ll fantasize that when you were young, prices were reasonable, politicians were noble and children respected their elders. “

    In a perfect world the “will to power” would be an automatic bar on acquiring it. But we don’t live in a perfect world ; the best we can hope is that when the time comes we get the wrong politician with the right vices (e.g. Churchill’s long fashioned warmongery was actually called for, maybe for the first time, in 1939-1941 and thence to ’45)

  • Joe

    [i]In fact, all that will happen if Ireland rejects this treaty is that the Czech and the Polish Presidents will not sign it, and the British government will have to hold a referendum on it, wherein the British people will overwhelmingly reject the treaty. Ireland will not be alone in rejecting this treaty. [/i]

    Dave, Ireland won’t reject Lisbon a second time. The first No vote was a combination of scaremongering, haggling and cocaine abuse.

    Voting yes this time will be like voting for alka-seltzer when you have a hangover. No contest.

  • borderline

    I don’t think that this Swede has done the yes camp any favours http://www.rte.ie/news/2009/0818/blasphemy.html

    I would have hoped that Swedish travellers in Ireland might show a bit of respect for the country they were travelling in.

    I thought Ireland had signed up to the EU for economic reasons, not for being outvoted on matters of conscience. We have had enough of that thanks all the same Karl.

  • Mick Fealty

    Been looking for a copy of the McKenna judgement. I can find lots of references to it online, but not the thing itself. Can anyone help?

    Dave,

    I don’t buy that argument of Nell’s either, but you’re jumping the shark (again) to call it fascism. Why do the Irish people vote men and women into the Oireachtas if they are not to be trusted as the keepers of the common will?

    It seems to me (setting the precise legalities of it aside for the moment) that these referenda have become a means for people to express their frustration with the shortcomings of the Irish parliamentary system, in which government consistently views both Houses as a pliant electoral college to which it owes no obligation to share it’s own plans.

    In which case, McCafferty’s case that the EC/EC/EP provides s a kind of calm legislative port within the Irish parliamentary maelstrom has some validity, even if you or I may think it’s looking at matters the wrong way up..

  • Dave

    “Been looking for a copy of the McKenna judgement. I can find lots of references to it online, but not the thing itself. Can anyone help?” – Mick

    Courts.ie or supremecourt.ie for the full text of any judgement after 2001. McKenna v An Taoiseach was in 1995, but you can find a copy of it here.

    “I don’t buy that argument of Nell’s either, but you’re jumping the shark (again) to call it fascism. Why do the Irish people vote men and women into the Oireachtas if they are not to be trusted as the keepers of the common will?” – Mick

    [i]”The State’s organs cannot contract to exercise in a particular procedure their policy-making roles or in any way to fetter powers bestowed unfettered by the Constitution. They are the guardians of these powers – not the disposers of them.” – Mr Justice J Hederman, Supreme Court, Raymond Crotty v An Taoiseach, 1987[/i]

    The people elect the government to administer the executive powers of the State in the national interest (i.e. their common good), not to support the transfer of those powers to third parties who will operate them in their own interest.

    It is fascism because she is it rule by unelected and self-appointed elites. It is illegal under the Maastricht Treaty, for example, for the Irish government to offer any advice whatsoever to the ECB about what monetary policy might be helpful to Ireland’s national interest. Indeed, public debate about the pivotal role that macroeconomic policies played in the collapse of Ireland’s economy or what role they could play in reviving the economy is deliberately censored since, even if the public decided on a particular policy or, indeed, came to their collective senses and realised that arbitrary macroeconomic policies facilitate a political and not an economic agenda, they would be wholly unable to implement the policy. The public cannot in any way hold these unelected bureaucrats accountable for the power that they have to control their economy. As Keynes said, “Whoever controls the currency controls the country.”

    People don’t understand that the EU replaces a national interest with an EU interest, so it is nonsense to talk about it being in Ireland’s national interest to be in the EU. In the case of the ECB, the national interest is replaced with this EU interest and that is why it is illegal for any country to seek to promote that national interest by offering advice to the ECB.

    As various studies have shown, that EU interest oddly coincides, despite the illegality, with Germany’s national interest in that the macroeconomic policies of the ECB are based on the needs and underlining dynamics of that economy to the detriment of the other economies within the eurozone. That is simply because Germany is the biggest contributor to the EU, and the EU puts its own interests first. When Ireland needed higher interest rates to stop its economy from overheating and cool demand, Germany’s economy needed lower interest rates to stimulate demand… guess which way interest rates went?

    Sovereignty is not some obscure or antiquated concept with no relevance to democracy. There can be no democracy without sovereignty. Sovereignty is the authority to make policy and implement it in accordance with the national interest. Democracy is simply the process of electing those who will carry out that task on behalf of the nation and the process of holding them to account for how they do so. In giving away sovereignty to foreign agencies, you are allowing those foreign agencies to operate your state in accordance with their own interests, rendering your national interest null and void, and allowing those that you do not elect and who are not accountable to you (and who may never so much as set foot in your state) to determine your affairs. That is no democracy at all.

    Sovereignty does not reside with the government under Ireland’s constitution. That is why the people are required to give permission to the State to transfer their sovereignty to third parties. Contrary to how it is presented, the sovereignty is thereby given away under the Irish constitution, not pooled or loaned – none of the existing EU treaties have an exit clause.

  • Dave

    [b]Continued[/b]

    Here is what the Supreme Court said in the ‘Crott Judgement’ about surrender of sovereignty, the common good of the Irish nation, and how that common good is dismatled and replaced with the common good of the EU:

    75. In testing the constitutional validity of the proposed ratification of the SEA (insofar as it contains Title III) it is important to note that the Constitution at the very outset declares as follows in Article 1:-

    “The Irish nation hereby affirms its inalienable, indefeasible, and sovereign right…to determine its relations with other nations…in accordance with its own genius and traditions.”

    76. It appears to me that this affirmation means that the State’s right to conduct its external relations is part of what is inalienable and indefeasible in what is described in Article 5 as “a sovereign, independent, democratic State.” It follows, in my view, that any attempt by the Government to make a binding commitment to alienate in whole or in part to other states the conduct of foreign relations would be inconsistent with the Government’s duty to conduct those relations in accordance with the Constitution.

    77. The ultimate source and limits of the Government’s powers in the conduct of foreign relations are to be found in Article 6, s. 1 of the Constitution: –

    “All powers of government, legislative, executive and judicial, derive, under God, from the people, whose right it is to designate the rulers of the State and, in final appeal, to decide all questions of national policy, according to the requirements of the common good.”

    78. It follows that the common good of the Irish people is the ultimate standard by which the constitutional validity of the conduct of foreign affairs by the Government is to be judged. In this and in a number of other respects throughout the Constitution the central position of the common good of the Irish people is stressed as one of the most fundamental characteristics of Ireland as a sovereign, independent, democratic state.

    79. A perusal of Title III of the SEA satisfies me that each ratifying Member State will be bound to surrender part of its sovereignty in the conduct of foreign relations. That is to happen as part of a process designed to formulate and implement a European foreign policy. The freedom of action of each state is to be curtailed in the interests of the common good of the Member States as a whole. Thus, for example, in regard to Ireland, while under the Constitution the point of reference for the determination of a final position on any issue of foreign relations is the common good of the Irish people, under Title III the point of reference is required to be the common position determined by Member States. It is to be said that such a common position cannot be reached without Ireland’s consent, but Title III is not framed in a manner which would allow Ireland to refuse to reach a common position on the ground of its obligations under the Irish Constitution. There is no provision in the Treaty for a derogation by Ireland where its constitutional obligations so require. On the contrary, Title III expressly provides:-

    “In adopting its positions and in its national measures [which presumably would include Acts of the Oireachtas] each High Contracting Party shall take full account of the positions of the other partners and shall give due consideration to the desirability of adopting and implementing common European positions.”

    80. Thus, if the other Member States were to take up a common position on an issue of external relations, Ireland, in adopting its own position and in its national measures, would be bound by Title III to “take full account” of the common position of the other Member States. To be bound by a solemn international treaty to act thus is, in my opinion, inconsistent with the obligation of the Government to conduct its foreign relations according to the common good of the Irish people. In this and in other respects Title III amounts to a diminution of Ireland’s sovereignty which is declared in unqualified terms in the Irish Constitution

  • Dave

    By the way, don’t forget to mention in your forthcoming article on the McKenna judgement that the government’s quango, the Broadcasting Commission of Ireland, has conveniently abolished the requirement on broadcasters to give equal airtime during editorial coverage to both sides of the debate in the Lisbon re-run and has also rigged political party broadcasts so that broadcasters will be under no obligation to carry them but where they do carry them the they must give equal airtime. Now, since only one political party is in the No camp (the Shinners), what is the betting that this fix is designed to block political party broadcasts by the expedient of the political parties in the Yes camp declining to run broadcasts, thereby effectively banning the No camp from running them?

    Before Libertas pulled out, the Oireachtas Joint Committee on the Constitution wanted to limit equal airtime to TDs thereby blocking Libertas from getting any airtime in the re-run. Since 160 out of 166 TDs are pro-Lisbon, debate would have been limited to Shinners, thereby associating the No camp with those who are reviled and with very poor performers/debaters sans slick broadcasts.

    If the government give the impression of being the EU’s representatives in Ireland rather than Ireland’s representatives in the EU it’s because that is exactly what they are.

    One last quote from the Supreme Court:

    “The will of the people as expressed in a referendum providing for the amendment of the Constitution is sacrosanct and if freely given, cannot be interfered with. The decision is theirs and theirs alone.” – Hamilton CJ, Riordan v An Taoiseach

  • Dave

    The McKenna and Coughlan judgements, incidently, are both based on Article 40.1 in regard to state funding and airtime.

  • Speaking of the McKenna Judgement, it’s disturbing that the new Broadcasting Commission of Ireland (BCI) guidelines will rig the airtime in favour of political-parties by replacing the requirement of equal-airtime for the yes-no sides with a requirement of equal airtime for the yes-no parties. A constitutional challenge on the basis of Article 40.1, which confers equality on all citizens before the law, cannot be ruled out, and is desirable for the protection of the public from undue expenditure of taxpayer’s money on propaganda with a view to steering the campaign in a particular direction.

  • Mick Fealty

    Of course, it should be noted that Iceland has applied for membership of the EU: http://url.ie/28lg

  • Dave

    Terrific posts, so informative.

    ————————

    I find it so dispiriting that people who are democrats to the core, when it comes to the EU are so willing to give up their democratic rights to unelected politicians.

    If the national interest was replaced with the interest of the people of the EU as a whole, I could live with that, but what we have seen over the last decade is increasingly the political and bureaucratic elite within the EU representing big business to the detriment of all else. Time and again they have filtered out the social element of the EU, which was designed to give it stability and unity.

    The massive democratic deficit within the EU is not an accident or oversight, we have been pointing it out for decades. This democratic deficit is a conscious decision by Europe’s political and business elite so they can guarantee their decisions will be put into practice. (even if it means repeat referender)

    There is absolutely no reason why they could not have placed democratic infrastructure within the Lisbon Treaty, they chose not to. Thus only a fool or someone who is willing to gamble with their own freedoms, and those of future generations will vote yes in Octobers referendum.

    By voting no, things will stay as they are and those pompous politicians will have to go back to the table and work all the harder to satisfy the needs of the EU’s population.

    After the mess they have landed us in economically, what harm will it do to give them a flea in the ear?

  • “Of course, it should be noted that Iceland has applied for membership of the EU”

    Yes Mick,

    something else we will not be asked to decide upon.

  • Greenflag

    Dave ,

    ‘As Keynes said, “Whoever controls the currency controls the country.”’

    That was in the 1930’s or 1920’s when what we now call economic globalisation did not exist and when the economic world was divvied up between the old european empires and the emerging USA .That world no longer exists.

    Who now controls the ‘sovereign ‘ US Dollar ? The US Government ? the Federal Reserve? or the Chinese , Japanese and others ( Oil rich countries )who hold a trillion dollars in US Securities and who can if they decide to move such holdings reduce the value of the US dollar overnight ?

    Who controls the UK pound sterling ? The Bank of England or a team of international currency speculators poised to make billions off it’s descent in value or should I say as one poster put it a while ago it’s ‘free fall’ as per market forces ?

    Ireland is better protected from international currency speculators under the Euro than we could ever be with a stand alone currency or as part of sterling .

    Icelanders learnt that lesson the hard way which is why they have applied to join the EU/euro along with several others countries .

    ‘As various studies have shown, that EU interest oddly coincides, despite the illegality, with Germany’s national interest in that the macroeconomic policies of the ECB are based on the needs and underlining dynamics of that economy to the detriment of the other economies within the eurozone’

    Which studies would they be ? and which other countries were ‘detrimented ‘ Over the longer term the EU has been beneficial to the Irish economy . The current economic crisis has more to do with the financial gangsterism touched off by the shadow banking fraternities in Wall St and the City of London and by some of our own home grown boyos than either the Germans or the EU !

  • Greenflag

    mick hall,

    ”Time and again they have filtered out the social element of the EU, which was designed to give it stability and unity.’

    Can you be a bit more specific with examples ? In comparison to the ultra ‘sovereign’ in the ‘davidian’sense USA the EU provides a lot more protection for it’s citizens against the vicissitudes of the market economy.

    ‘I find it so dispiriting that people who are democrats to the core, when it comes to the EU are so willing to give up their democratic rights to unelected politicians.”

    Why ? When you see what the élected politicians have achieved ? why would people not be willing ?

    On another thread Mick Fealty mentions the ‘janus faced álmost schizoid pronouncements of Northern Ireland MLA’s speaking out of both and all sides sides of their representative mouths . It’s not that much different with TD’s , MP’s or the other parliamentarian representatives within the EU .

    Yes there is a democratic deficit within the EU but that’s because the various national parliaments continue to pretend what they have’nt been for a long time i.e sovereign in the traditional meaning of that term .

    ‘ If the national interest was replaced with the interest of the people of the EU as a whole, I could live with that’

    Eventually it will have to come to that . In the meantime the ‘dreamers’can still pretend it’s possible to go back to the type of national ‘sovereignty’which in reality existed for only a few of the world’s nations in the early 20th and late 19th centuries !

  • Greenflag

    ‘After the mess they have landed us in economically, what harm will it do to give them a flea in the ear? ‘

    If you mean by ‘they’the shadow banking neo con financial gangsters of the banking , insurance and hedge fund world the answer is none . They have long since departed with the absconded billions with the loss of a few casualties with the likes of Madoff among others jailed .

    If by ‘they” you mean the Irish or British or NI governments they will hardly notice . BY now there ears are so reddened or should be that adding an additional flea would be like chaining an extra concrete block on to the legs of someone who has already sunken half way to Davy Jones locker 😉 i.e a waste of time and money.

    At times like these it’s better to remember the old Confucian admonishment .

    Oh eggs do not fight with stones !

  • Greenflag

    great stuff [20]

  • Wilde Rover

    Interesting posts all round.

    The astro-turfing is a smart move by the Yes side.

    Still a difficult one to call.