Lisbon Essay (28): How on earth do we switch this (EU) thing off?

Declan Ganley of Libertas notes that if you vote yes tomorrow, then there may be no more opportunities for the plain people of Ireland to turn this process around. This, he argues, is not the second time this treaty has been voted on but the fifth. That the only changes that have been made to it in all of that time (he makes the score 3-2 to the No side by the way) are purely cosmetic demonstrates just how far the democratic and bureaucratic elites of the European Union have got from their ‘polis’. The decision tomorrow will shape Europe. And the decision the voters make should not be made in fear of the future, but in terms of how seriously people want to taken by those lofty elites elites in future..

By Declan Ganley

Thank you for the invitation to contribute.

If you have not made up your mind by now, my guess is that an intricate discussion of the provisions of the Treaty will not sway you either way, and that you have begun the process of balancing and weighing the arguments that will decide which box you tick on the morrow. Instead, I want to leave you with a few thoughts on what our vote will say about the direction of the Union in the years to come.

I was moved by Margot Wallström’s impassioned plea (LE20) for the EU to stop looking inwards when I read it on these pages the other day, and like her, I agree that suspicion towards our partners is counter-productive and corrosive. The EU has been great, and can be greater – on that we should all agree.

What worries me about our vote is this: of all the questions the yes side can answer about the Treaty, one has remained ignored. How do we stop it? Forget for one moment whether you like it, or not, for there is as in all documents of its scope much to commend, and much to commend its rejection.

Many people have spoken of things that will happen after our vote. Let me tell you one thing that will not happen if we vote “YES”: No survey will be commissioned to find out why we did. No studies will be done. Whether we voted out of fear or loathing will be ignored. Our vote will be placed in a box which says “right answer, move on”.

When our leaders go down the path of asking us to explain why we vote in a particular manner, the essential ideal behind the secret ballot is lost. Europe has started down a path whereby the culture has shifted to a situation where our leaders demand explanations from us, and not the other way around. Votes against a Treaty or any other document beloved of the project can, under this new definition of democracy, never be considered to be a vote against the direction of the project itself.

This is not the second referendum on this Treaty. It is the sixth. It has so far been voted on five times, and if it were a football match, the score would be 3-2 to the NO side. Despite this, the only changes that have been made to the document are cosmetic. It is a fact that no law that could have been made under the document rejected by the French could not be made under the document we decide on tomorrow, and vice versa. The democratic process has not changed the direction of the project at all.

So, how do we stop it? Even a “NO” tomorrow may not achieve that, our politicians say. A third referendum has not been ruled out. When you arrive at a situation in society wherein you must explain your secret ballot to the Government, and wherein your vote is not permitted to bring real change to the issue on which you were asked to adjudicate, it is time to look inwards. When you find yourself living in a democracy, but unable to join with a majority of your fellow citizens to influence a long term policy trend, it is time to look inwards.

Our decision tomorrow will indeed shape Europe. You have been asked to vote with fear in your hearts, and to consider the “consequences” of your decision. If that is what you do, then so be it. I will not question you, and nor will anybody else. I ask you only this – as your pen hovers over the ballot tomorrow, think for one moment about the message you are sending our leaders about how they should treat us in future. I have, and I’m voting for Europe, and voting NO.

Mick is founding editor of Slugger. He has written papers on the impacts of the Internet on politics and the wider media and is a regular guest and speaking events across Ireland, the UK and Europe. Twitter: @MickFealty