Big private sector interests move into the Lisbon debate…

Cian notes the entry of the multinationals, particularly in the person of Jim O’Hara Chief Executive of Intel in Ireland, who’s been on Morning Ireland this morning making a strong case for Ireland signing up to the Lisbon Treaty. Quid Pro Quo says Cian, given the general assumption that Libertas stood for an undisclosed set of private interests (leaving Fianna Fail out of it, for the moment). It’s also worth mentioning the powerful effect of an extremely wealthy external Eurosceptic lobby against the echo chamber that was the Yes campaign last time out.

The truth is that only private sector interest is franchised to take part in any referendum debate. That’s partly because Ireland’s political parties have little natural capacity for debating policy. And partly, because the McKenna (No 2), Crotty and Coughlan Supreme Court judgements effectively forbid them from drawing on state funds to prosecute any case in the matter… Welcome to corporate Ireland…

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  • Mick

    In a sense, however, isn’t Intel’s engagement rather refreshing…no astroturfing, no fake ‘foundation’, no ‘think tank’, no ‘dodgy dossier’, just a named business interest, openly and in its own right, making its case publicly why the outcome it wants should be supported.

    Would that all interests (…ehem… libertas) were as ‘open’…

  • Mack

    I agree with The Spectator.

    I work in the multi-national sector and I think not only is the prosperity (or not) of my family dependent on it, but a large portion of total Irish prosperity depends on the success of that sector too (via corpo tax, exports & employment). I think it’s very positive that they are engaging, and transparently too it seems, and communicating what their interests are. Otherwise, what happens is that other special interest groups will make claims such as “voting NO will have no effect on MNCs here” or vice versa. At the time of Lisbon 1 there was much debate in our office, with many arguing we it was time to call a halt on the onward EU integration march and that the effect on our employment situation would be positive. At time when companies are shedding workers (something we’re about experience again for a second time in six fecking months) I think these kinds of interventions bring much needed clarity to the debate.

  • Mick Fealty

    TS,

    It’s good that business speaks out in its own interests. And that it does so straight and honestly. It doesn’t do it often enough.

    What perplexes me is the tethering of elected representatives by three supreme court rulings which appear to be aimed at keeping them out of any public debate on principle.

  • Mick

    Surely the only tethering is to prevent the use of taxpayer’s money – as long as ‘state’ funds aren’t used, the parties can do what they like.

    Are you not in danger her of confusing cause and effect – that because the court cases appear to have had the effect of preventing party political engagement, then that must have been the court’s motive?

  • I question Intel’s motives there. I reject the economic argument, which boils down to “EU is good – Vote Yes”. That is no longer good enough. I read what he had to say, and he claims that a ‘third no vote to Europe in ten years’ would create ‘uncertainty’. Well I’m sorry. We survived before and will again. Industrial output in April-June rose 9.3%, while exports in the year up to April rose 5%. The ISEQ is recovery. AIB/BOI shares have risen tenfold from the height of the market meltdown, largely because of NAMA. The Green Shoots are there. We should not surrender sovereignty because of a temporary recession. After Spain voted yes to the EU Constitution, unemployment doubled to 18%.

    I also question Intel’s motives. They are currently embroiled in a legal-dispute with the EU Commission over a €1.44 billion fine imposed for anti-competitive practices (discriminatory discounting). They are appealing the decision to the Court of First Instance. Are they trying to get back into Brussels’ good books? Do the provisions of the referendum wording allowing for Ireland to enter the passport-free Schengen Area, or Article 15(1) of the Charter of Fundamental Rights allowing asylum seekers to work, with the consequent access to cheap labour from outside the EU play a role in this decision? I don’t trust the elites and I’m still voting no.

  • Greenflag

    ‘That’s partly because Ireland’s political parties have little natural capacity for debating policy’

    Ouch thats a bit harsh Mick even if true ;). But is it really any different elsewhere ? The ‘party line’is the party line and once policy is decided (how it’s decided is probably the moot point) it’s either support the whip or go elsewhere i.e cross the floor and say goodbye to a political career most likely .

    As for the point that political parties don’t have the money to mount campaign’s .This did not seem to impair Sinn Féin, Libertas and a medley of Catholic conservative and pro-neutrality groups last time out . My gut instinct tells me that it was complaceny mixed with a complex issue -we recall that Mr Cowan confessed he had’nt read it in it’s entirety shortly before the vote .

    While I generally support referenda as a means of strengthening popular democracy even referenda have their limits . When a 28% vote of the total electorate rejected Lisbon I that should have been a wake up call for the parties to look at having a minimum turn out of voters of at least 70% and preferably more for any referendum result to be declared valid .

    Since then of course our governments seem to have adopted the rabbit frozen in headlights mode as they try to cope with i.e survive electorally the vastly changed economic outlook since Lisbon I.

  • “an extremely wealthy external Eurosceptic lobby”

    The pro-Lisbon group had virtually every Irish political figure (what, 90% of the Dail or so?) and most of the commentariat. The question on this is that even “hobbled” by the Supreme Court – not that Libertas won but how did the proponents lose?

    If political parties can’t mount a campaign without State funds, then maybe they should have a good think about why that is (and it’s not that they should be allowed to use State funds, either)

  • Greenflag

    mark dowling,

    ‘If political parties can’t mount a campaign without State funds, then maybe they should have a good think about why that is (and it’s not that they should be allowed to use State funds, either)’

    My gut instinct goes with you on this one until I think of how the corporate lobbyists in the USA have virtually turned the US Congress and Senate into a branch office for Corporate America and I mean the larger corporations and not the samll to medium size businesses that create 9 out of every 10 new jobs .

    Politicians everywhere love OPM (other people’s money ) and as we know he who pays the piper gets to not only pick the tune but even more often gets to pick the venue the orchestra and even select the guest list for those invited to the party .

    Some form of public funding for political campaigns might be prefereable to having the politicians selling themselves like prostitutes to the highest bidders i.e the Private Insurance lobbyists -the oil and gun lobbies and their Irish cousins the developers of brown envelope fame 🙁

  • Mick Fealty

    Mark, I agree with the last part. I wasn’t/don’t think it should be that easy for them. But I do question why they can’t draw ANY state funds down, when they are up against such large corporate interests outside the democratic set-up.

  • 0b101010

    But I do question why they can’t draw ANY state funds down, when they are up against such large corporate interests outside the democratic set-up.

    Granted I’d be against it by default, but spending the public’s money on pushing either side of a referendum is a shady business. When the whole point is to find out directly what public opinion is, outside of party politics, how do you decide in advance what a fair allocation of their tax money would be?

    Considering that almost all the political parties supported Lisbon: if 80% of the public’s money ended up going towards promoting one side, and 53% of the public ultimately vote for the other, would that be fair and democratic?

  • 0b101010

    While I generally support referenda as a means of strengthening popular democracy even referenda have their limits.

    Which are…?

    When a 28% vote of the total electorate rejected Lisbon I that should have been a wake up call for the parties to look at having a minimum turn out of voters of at least 70% and preferably more for any referendum result to be declared valid .

    We’ve been over misrepresenting the vote before, almost ad nauseum: the motion wasn’t to reject Lisbon — to vote for a negative — it was to amend the Constitution. Only 25% of the electorate voted for the amendment and against the status quo.

    I’m all for requiring a minimum turnout — forcing referenda to be conservative in scope — but it would be an interesting exercise because it, itself, would require an amendment to the Constitution and, therefore, a referendum. Would a requirement for a minimum turnout of, say, 70% have any authority if the amendment itself passes by less?