Lisbon Essay (25): As Iceland discovered the EU is the firebrigade…

Jason O’Mahoney lays out a scenario he believes the No side is studiously avoiding: what happens to Ireland’s national interest within Europe if there is a No vote and Lisbon is abandoned for a more centralised, bi or tri-lateral decision making processes in its stead. The Treaty itself is dry and technical because it is dry and technical, not because anyone is trying pull a fast one. And he believes that counter to Nigel Farage’s assertions in LE10 the “alternative to Lisbon has almost no support in the rest of Europe”.

Jobs. Inward Investment. Influence within the institutions of…..bleugh. You’ll have heard all that stuff from people smarter than me.

Here’s why I’m voting Yes.

The EU works. It does more good than harm, and I’ve not come across a proposal from Sinn Fein or Joe Higgins or UKIP or Coir/Youth Defence which makes better sense, and wins as much support among European people, as the EU.

We’re not voting on the EU itself, true, but here’s my problem:

If we vote No, the rest of Europe will respect our decision. They will accept that we have voted twice against further integration, and that we are sincere in our beliefs that this is as far as we go. In short they will, much to our surprise, believe us.

Is it unreasonable to suggest that those other countries that want to move on will negotiate amongst themselves, and not invite us?

After all:

A) We have said (Three out of four times.) that we’re not interested.

B) Why would anyone believe an Irish government could get anything it negotiated through a referendum anyway, after failing twice in a row? Involving us just makes it more complicated.

They will respect us and leave us be, and I don’t want us to be left be. I want us at the table when Angela Merkel turns and says “What does Ireland think?” and no one on the No side can assure me of that.

There is good stuff in the treaty, but it is technical. The Council will vote in public, for example. Does that excite you? Does that cause your nether regions to stir? Is there anyone closing their curtains, and sweatily slipping “Red Hot Council Decisions Volume 2.” into their DVD player? No there isn’t.

But then there are no teenagers slipping a well thumbed copy of “Aircraft Window Sealant regulations” under the sheets either, but next time you get on a plane, and look at the seal around the window, I bet you’ll think: “I hope someone checks this stuff.” Stuff can be boring AND important and this is one of those things.

Many of the people opposed to the treaty are sincere. Joe Higgins is, but Joe is also using the treaty to fight for a vision of society that he has never succeeded in doing in a general election. Trying to turn Ireland into North Korea without the psychotic midget dictator and the daily diet of tree bark and weevils is going to be a hard enough sell. At least turn up on the right battlefield , Joe.

Sinn Fein are still moving away from a 19th century view of the world towards modern times. Sinn Fein say that they are now committed to the EU, using the same tone that the PSNI use about their commitment to human rights.

Certainly, when you look at the way Sinn Fein ministers in the North talk about the EU (Quite nicely in a More tea, Vicar? Chocolate Hobnob? kind of way.) they’re either two-faced, with a partitionist approach to the EU, or the ministers in the North show the way Sinn Fein is heading on Europe.

Either way, their alternative has almost no support in the rest of Europe, and believing that Sinn Fein can make the other 26 countries surrender everything is a bit hopeful: When they tried to negotiate with just one country (The Brits), the best they got us were all-Ireland telly ads telling us how to not get the runs from food poisoning.

Coir/Youth Defence have it in for, well, 21st Century life on Earth. As an architect friend described Coir’s view to me: “Vote Yes and the gays will make aborted children fight in Afghanistan for €1.84 an

We have problems, big giant Godzilla-without-cute-Godzuki sized problems coming at us. We don’t need to create new problems for the sake of it, and that’s what we will do with a No vote. If you’re pissed off with the government and the political establishment, that’s fine. Kick the crap out of them at election time.

But voting No to get at the government is like being one of those morons who throws rocks at the fire brigade. As Iceland discovered, the EU is the fire brigade, and it’s damn handy having a direct line to the station.

Yes is, quite simply, the sensible self-interested way to go.

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  • kensei

    There remains no mechanism for people to push ahead within further integration within the EU. Furthermore, if Ireland votes no, itr is likely to be joined by at least the Czechs and probably the UK next year. Complete isolation is a straw man. He also assumes the only outcome for the EU is furteh and further integration. This is not the case, and going along with soemthign you are increasingly uncomfortable with just so you don’t get left behind is madness for a teenager, nevermind a nation.

    Second he needlessly dumps in a split in SF that isn’t there. SF dumped the outright opposition to the EU, and indeed the Euro yonks ago and actually want it North. It’s a straw amn, and a bit of distraction.

    One of the worser of these, I feel.

  • Re the rest of Europe will accept a second no from Ireland…
    Is that really so?

    Several are saying they’ll go their own way, not let Ireland stop them – and it is to some extent understandable, although the initial position called for everyone’s agreement.

    In such a case, what’s left for Ireland?
    That’s right, yet another vote…

    For those who don’t know the ‘story’ behind this vote…

    A Bedtime Story for all Nice Children and not so Maastricht Adults

    The Happy Family

    Once upon a time there was a family treaty-ing themselves to a visit in Lisbon.
    On the sunny day that it was they decided to go out together.
    Everyone had to agree on what they would do.
    “So”, said Daddy Brusselsprout “Let’s all go for a picnic!”
    “No”, said Aunt Erin, “I don’t want to”.
    Did they then think of something else, that they might indeed agree on?
    Oh yes they did?
    Oh no they didn’t!
    Daddy Brusselsprout asked all the others anyway, isolating Erin, and then asked her if instead, she would like to go with them to the park and eat out of a lunch basket….

    Kids, we’ll finish this story tomorrow, and remember, in the EU yes means yes and no means yes as well!

  • Greenflag

    Jason’s piece says it all .

    Give the Irish people right now a choice to vote for Taoiseach from the following

    a) Brian Cowen
    b) Joe Higgins
    c) Coir
    d) Enda Kenny
    e) Libertas Ganley
    f) Angela Merkel
    g) Gerry Adams

    I’d guess the German Chancellor would win hands down 😉

  • Greenflag

    peter in dublin,

    Life’s not a fairy story and it’s also not fair or haven’t you heard .

    Ask the Icelanders why they want to join the EU and the Eurozone as well as 10 other small european countries ?

    It’s because they were left totally exposed to the big bad wolves of Wall Street and the City of London and their little stand alone currencies were gobbled up for dessert. And now the big bad wolves are looking for new prey and it seems that pound sterling is looking very weak and doddery . Oh and yes the big bad wolves will eat their own when that’s all thats left on the table .

  • I think, greenflag, that Iceland’s own big bad wolves were sufficient to bring the country down – it didn’t need much help from Wall Street or London.

  • dubliner

    Iceland like Norway was prosperous enough without the EU, until a few greedy reckless bankers messed it up for them.

    Re Ireland-Iceland,

    Originally it was all about how lucky Ireland was to have the EU,
    and the ECB has weighed in “to help Ireland” (really to maintain Irish banks so they can keep paying off the main German creditors)

    Yet Iceland has done the right thing with its banks and is recovering better now:
    See FT analysis comparison:

    David McWilliams points out similar comparisons
    ( )

    If a ban fails it fails.

    There is unnecessary financial and moral injustice
    in treating banks differently to any other commercial enterprise.

    The bankrupcy of failing banks, with depositor guarantee,
    simply allows for new debt-free entities to take their place.
    Private investors will of course be attracted to any new such lending institution that has limited competition.

    Much, as said, is made of the supposed kindness of European Central Bank (ECB) involvement in Ireland.
    But their interest in cooperating with the the Irish Government in maintaining current bank solvency
    should be seen in the light of the Irish banks substantial debt to German institutions.
    Bankrupt banks = no repayments to Germany.
    Supported banks = repayments to Germany. Hence a reason for the ECB involvement
    (and they’re only temporarily lending at a much vaunted 1 1/2 % interest rate, for 6 months or so)
    Also, an advantage to the Irish Government here, is the Yes to Lisbon spin that they can put on it.

    The Government makes a lot of noise about “losing respect” in the case of bankrupcies.
    On the contrary, they would gain much EU institutional respect in not giving state aid to failing commercial enterprise….

  • Peter, you came up with the same story on the Irish Times politics blog about 6 months ago, and my response then is my response now that story should really more accurately go as follows:-

    “So”, said Daddy Brusselsprout “Let’s all go for a picnic!” and he then asked each person in turn and they all said Yes up to when he came to Aunt Erin. She said “No I don’t want to because there are monsters in the park”. There were only a few left to ask so he asked them and then they all looked at Aunt Erin and asked her what she meant by there are monsters in it. And she said “some people told me about them, one of them said the monsters would take my babies and another said I wouldn’t be able to get rid of burglars in my house and another said I’d have to join the army and kill people. And I don’t like that though the one that said that to me did like killing people or at least when it was for political aims.”

    And the others said, “Were these the same people that said there were monsters in the last park, and the park before that? And that there would be a European Army with soldiers on every bench inspecting your books and that the book of revelations said the EU was the whore of Babylon?”

    “Kinda,” she said.

    Then they asked her if instead, she would like to go with them to the park and eat out of a lunch basket….while they guaranteed to protect her from the monsters even if they didn’t exist. And she said give me a few months to think about it…

  • Greenflag

    david steven ,

    ‘I think, greenflag, that Iceland’s own big bad wolves were sufficient to bring the country down – it didn’t need much help from Wall Street or London. ‘

    True enough but the tools for deception were fabricated in the shadowy backrooms of the financial services sector in those cities with the enthusiastic support (i.e bought support) of politicians of all parties .

    Iceland’s home grown ‘wolves’ btw have had to flee the island in fear of their lives from the hard hit Icelandic population. We haven’t reached that point yet in Ireland or the UK but if the governments don’t get their ‘act ‘ together then our ‘wolves’ too may become an endangered ‘species ‘

  • Greenflag

    daniel k sullivan,

    Here’s the American Irish language enthusiast Des Bishop talking about the ‘big bad wolf ‘ or as he calls it the Modh Coinniollach ( Conditional verb mood ). It’s in English so no need to be ‘terrified ‘ His final quip is a classic;)

    It’s the NO campaign in a nutshell . Des never intended it as such but the similarities are uncanny but hilarious 😉

  • igor

    “It’s because they were left totally exposed to the big bad wolves of Wall Street and the City of London” …. well, there you go. It was the Brits and Yanks again and not those plucky little Icelandic corporate thieves, liars, scoundrels and dishonest bankers what done it. Oh no. Not them. Honest

  • Joe Cleary


    The simple truth is this:
    if there had been a yes vote, Ireland would not be voting again

  • Joe, if you ask someone to go out with you and they say Yes, you go out. If they say no, you are allowed ask them again.

  • Joe

    Daniel and Greenflag

    Certainly one can vote again on an issue,

    otherwise one might for example in national elections have a single national government for a lifetime.

    What is wrong is when the procedure regarding a vote is broken.

    Given that the outset agreement was that all countries had to agree to the treaty,
    after the first no vote,
    the treaty should have been assumed dead,
    and member states should then have got together and fixed up a new treaty to vote on
    (yes, complicated, but democratic, given the initial stance taken)

    Instead nearly all others went ahead and ratified it regardless,
    and Brian Cowen was called to account in Brussels about “what he is going to do about it”,
    a second vote being the only real option, with some “guarantees” thrown in.

    A ‘yes’ vote first time round would hardly have given a second chance vote on the issue:
    In fact, the treaty itself means agreeing not to hold such national referendums in the future,
    so that, supposedly, can’t even arise.

    So much for democracy.

  • Joe, democracy is not simply the process of voting. It is also the process of engagement and debating lead up to that voting. And everyone is aware that a significant % of the electorate who voted themselves admitted to not being fully informed.

  • Joe Cleary

    As you say, it’s not just the voting:
    the agreed procedure was broken.

    Having lots of debate is fine, but that goes for any voting, at any time, on any issue.

    People could also have been better informed ahead of a second vote taken to confirm an initial “yes” vote:
    Yet, as said, that would never have occurred, and is seemingly precluded by the treaty itself.
    The engagement and debate of referendums, that you favour, is hardly promoted by not allowing
    such referendums in the future.