“…we need and want a referendum because we cannot continue jeopardising our national interest”

Ronan Fanning has an interesting piece in today’s Sunday Independent which argues that Ireland needs to make up its mind on what it’s defining purpose will be in Europe by the time it hosts the Presidency for the first half of 2013.

That job is not as easy as it was back in 1961, when Sean Lemass defined it maximally in an EEC that was yet to experience the growing pains of the following decades. Like Marx before the Marxist state the vision was then thing. Fanning:

Although Lemass had failed to win an overall majority in the general election of October 1961, in January 1962 he won the approval of the Fianna Fail ard fheis for his European policy. National aims, he advised the ard fheis, “must conform to the emergence, in a political as well as an economic sense (my italics), of a union of Western European states, not as a vague prospect of the distant future but as a living reality of our own times”. This was the message he spelt out in his 1962 tour of the EEC capitals. In July 1962, in an interview with The New York Times, he went even further, declaring that Ireland was “prepared to go into this integrated Europe without any reservations as to how far this will take us in the field of foreign policy and defence.”

Bold words from the one time Irish revolutionary fighter, but ones he never saw drawn into practical actions. Nevertheless, Dr Fanning recommends returning to those high principles for today’s leaders:

Where Lemass always thought strategically about Europe, the defeatist concerns of today’s ministers are essentially about tactics, and dubious tactics at that.

The difference is rooted in Lemass’s understanding that the political dimensions of Ireland’s relationship with Europe are paramount. This was what enabled him to blaze the trail for his immediate successors as Taoisigh to identify, occupy and never relinquish the high moral ground on Europe. What is finally coming to pass in 2012 is what Lemass anticipated as “a living reality” fully 50 years ago. That in the event of a crisis that threatened the integrity, even the survival, of the European project, Ireland must be prepared to make an unequivocal commitment to an “integrated Europe without any reservations”.

Which is all fine, when you consider that up to now, Ireland has benefited from such homogeniety on the desirability of the European project. That project is currently extracting a price that is not so universally popular as it once was.

Nevertheless, Fanning usefully sketches out a number of scenarios for the coming year:

The first and worst is that the Government, clinging to the crutch of legal advice, will try to enact a eurozone treaty without a referendum. President Higgins may well decide to refer such a bill to the Supreme Court and, even if he does not, the anti-European lobby who see this as their golden opportunity, will certainly do so. If the Supreme Court finds against the Government, as many lawyers think they will, the consequent referendum cannot be won because the Government will be on the back foot fighting a campaign which they were desperate to avoid and for which even the dogs in the street will know they have neither appetite nor energy.

The second scenario — that the Government will hold a referendum because the Attorney General advises it to do so — is almost as bad. Again, the voters will recognise the Government’s reluctance, that it is grudgingly holding a referendum not because it wants to but because it must. Again, all the appetite, energy and momentum will rest with the Opposition and the likelihood is that such a referendum would also be lost.

The third scenario, and the only one with a serious prospect of success, is to seize the high moral ground and immediately start laying the foundations for a referendum campaign designed to reaffirm Ireland’s unequivocal commitment to the project of an integrated Europe. The main theme of such a campaign, which must be bold, vigorous and enthusiastic, should be that we need and want a referendum because we cannot continue jeopardising our national interest. Because such a campaign must be genuinely national in its scope, it should seek to enlist the support of Fianna Fail much as Sean Lemass enlisted the support of Fine Gael in 1961-62.

That last would require a politically serious engagement on the matter of the Irish National Interest, a subject usually starved of any substantive public debate until it is much too late (ie, the week after any critical referendum campaign as actually started).

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  • tuatha

    To mount a referendum campaign designed to reaffirm Ireland’s unequivocal commitment to the project of an integrated Europe. would be a good idea, why?
    The, alleged, advantages of the rivers of gold that once flowed from Brussels surely can now be seen to have done little for the average person compared to the burden now on the citizen’s shoulder, purely by the government decision to guarantee the losses of those who recycled the cash to their advantage into ghost estates, empty malls & office blocks and the mortgaging of our children’s future.
    EFTA – yay, EU – nay.

  • Alias

    The unchallenged lie proffered by europhiles like Fanning is that the disposal of the nation’s sovereignty promotes the Irish national interest. In this way, they present themselves as Irish patriots. However, the lie is so blatant that it doesn’t take them long before they are back condemning patriotism as a retrograde practice (see the end of Fanning’s article).

    Fanning is not serving the national interest: he is betraying it. He is, however, serving the competing national interest of the emergent single European state. Unlike benign Irish nationalism, Fanning and ilk support a belligerent emergent nationalism that is as as intent on territorial expansionism as any regime that has proceeded it.

    Giving sovereignty away for a foreign regime simply means that the regime thereafter uses the sovereignty to promote its own interests at the direct expense of the nation that gives it away.

    This is why the Irish nation was forced by the regime to assume hundreds of billions of debts that belonged to French and German banks. It was not in the Irish nation’s interest that it should underwrite insolvent german and French banks but it was in the French/German and EU interest that they should do so. As they gave their sovereignty away they had no option other than to disgard their former national interest in its entirity and to dedicate themselves to promoting the EU’s interest at their expense.

    As is typical with the lies of these europhiles, they make great mention of a few billion grants spent on roads in Ireland but make no mention of the 300 billion worth of fishing stock extracted from Irish territorial waters and the loss of this imense potential souce of income to an island nation and nor do they make any mention of how backward Ireland’s argicultural industry became under EU control.

    This plunder of 300 billion of wealth from Ireland is unprecedented as national theft per capita anywhere in history, yet the Irish are led to beleive that they have been graced by the EU rather than robbed blind by it! They same theft was repeated when the EU forced the Irish to underwrite a half trillion worth of eurosystem debt.

    The EU is a backward region of the world that is in fatal economic decline. The EU’s share of global GDP will have fallen to 17% by 2015. 83% of global GDP is outside of the EU. It is utter insanity for Ireland to become a region of an emergent backward, over-regulated and bankrupt state when it should be focusing its economy and a region of the world that is expanding, not a region that is collapsing before our eyes.

  • wee buns

    [i]‘’…the Irish National Interest, a subject usually starved of any substantive public debate until it is much too late..’’[i]

    Bingo statement – indeed in the run up to Lisbon 2 there was a concentrated effort to suppress public debate, and a seriously sophisticated misinformation strategy employed, where even the most active and interested voter had tricky access to hard info on the treaty content. Even though there are legal obligations on the state to inform the public, the leaflet distributed door to door was inaccurate and misleading, while the hard info leaflet was only available in libraries and post offices. The overwhelming Yes vote was entirely due to public confusion plus lashings of fear mongering – with the exception of renegade Donegal where there was strong organized & informed opposition, as well as stark evidence of a 30 yr decline of the fishing industry.
    It is hard to envisage how they can pull off Lisbon 3 without resorting to the same tactics, which won’t wash.
    The tyranny has to end someway, somehow.

  • Alanbrooke

    So there must be a positive vote for a system offering the people decades of stagmation and high emigration but which keeps the politcians in cushy jobs, big pensions and limos ?

  • aquifer

    Ireland is an English speaking state with low corporation tax, an educated workforce, energy and agricultural resources, and a functional common law system. There are low levels of actual corruption.

    It has competitive advantage when it has access to EU markets, but would struggle outside the EU.

    It faces the same problem faced by all democracies, how to make unpopular economic decisions rather than simply adding to the national debt by postponing them.

    It needs to partially unhitch the interests of individual elected members and parties from the business of formulating economic and fiscal policies.

    The British did this very successfully for monetary policy by forming the Bank of England monetary policy committee, and enjoy amazingly low national borrowing rates.

    Ireland does not have control of monetary policy, but could form an independent monitoring and advisory commission for economic and tax policy that could report on the adequacy of government policy, perhaps using a simple ‘traffic light’ red orange green system to keep the electorate in the picture.

    Adequate public funding for political parties would also give them better control over their members and reduce the parish pump clientelism and graft that has brought the country to its knees.

    In the Sunday Times Michael Portillo notes that parliamentary democracies are a comparatively recent phenomenon, often fragile, and prone to displacement by autocratic or even fascistic competitors. The post second world war growth of democracies accompanied a period of economic productively growth and exploitation of natural resources and new technologies that is not repeatable.

    Ireland could do everybody a favour by ensuring democracy, environmental sustainability, and market economics can work together. It is very well placed to do this.

    Wishing you a happy new year, and that we continue to prosper.

  • There are quite a number of “Irish National Interest” arguments for rejecting the treaty. A minor National interest argument (already aired by some TDs is that with Britain not in the treaty, a Financial transactions tax would take away a considerable amount of business from Dublin to the City of London. But there is a much bigger National interest point than that.

    The main incentive for agreeing to the Treaty is to save the Euro. However, the Treaty will do nothing to resolve the crisis with the Euro. It is not even a stepping stone to resolving it. With Germany not prepared to put its full weight behind “the big Bazooka”, there is nothing in it for the Irish. It might be different if the Germans gave an indication that with this Treaty in place, they would do what is necessary. They have not.

    Even the German media are attacking their Government over their failure to face crucial decisions on the future of the Euro. The German magazine, Der Speigel, has put it like this:

    “Anyone who believes that the European currency union doesn’t have a future anyway will think that every euro devoted to the rescue effort is a euro too many. On the other hand, anyone who thinks that the European Union is no longer imaginable without the euro — as Chancellor Merkel does — will believe that no price is too high.

    But whoever wants to save the euro must first be clear about the ultimate goal he or she wants to achieve. Do they want a currency union like the one constructed in the 1990s, with states that are solely responsible for their own finances, or a so-called transfer union with shared liabilities? Do they want a currency union in its current configuration or a smaller but stable euro zone of the core countries? And, whatever the answer, they also have to ask themselves which of these possibilities can realistically be implemented politically”

  • GreenBack

    Fanning like pro-European superstate types on the continent is stuck in the past. Where Fanning eulogises about Lemass’s view of Ireland in 1962 on the continent they lament German aggression and the two world war’s that it created. But both view have nothing to do with the actual reality of what is happening.

    The European Coal and Steel Community was a great achievement but an historical one. The latest treaty changes were not founded on the desire to keep Germany in check but the result of panic summits aimed at trying to hold back the tide on European sovereign insolvency. And what they came up with will not hold back the tide for long. So now they are attempting to move the goal posts, the Irish government is complicit in this too. The line we are sold by the summits junkies in Europe is that this is about solidarity – which means of course using other peoples money to sort out your problems. Member states, and especially Ireland, are threatened with expulsion if they don’t adopt the treaty changes and agree to economic sovereignty being passed to France and Germany. The Irish government has said as much.

    This is a profound change in the EU, it as moved away from an organisation which championed democracy to one which takes sovereignty under duress and removes elected leaders when they might destabilise solidarity. Fanning should take his mind away from the aspirations of 1960s and focus on what is actually happening now.

  • Roy Walsh

    I could not disagree with most of the sentiment expressed above but, had the then government not underwritten the banks to the tune of unbelievable sums in subsequent days you would have been wholly unable to access cash in person or through ATM’s, credit union’s etc. the damage this would have wrought would have been such that even our emigres could not have left the country.
    For your information this site is good at drawing facts to the attention of the public, if the AG advises we do need a referendum the spin will begin to ensure we vote yes, if the result is against we’ll just have to do it again, again!

  • Alias

    “…had the then government not underwritten the banks to the tune of unbelievable sums in subsequent days you would have been wholly unable to access cash in person or through ATM’s…”

    That is not true. It is true, however, that you would probably not have been able to access cash from an ATM if you held a BoI or AIB card for a few days if both of those banks went into administration. However, you could still have used your credit card or cheque book as normal and could still have used an ATM machine for the plethora of other banks which provide such services.

    The difference between now and then is that back then both of those banks had funds to repay their despositors in full, whereas now the despositors will not get a single euro if they collapsed. That is because the State extended the guarantee it offered only to despositors to cover all creditors, thereby ensuring there would be no funds to repay the despositors. In addition, the Central Bank borrowed circa 200 billion from the ECB which it proved to those banks to repay foreign bondholders. The ECB seized the assets of those banks as collateral for those loans, so those banks will not be able to give Irish people a cent of their desposits back because the French and Germans have laid claim to all of the nation’s money – with the collusion of their quisling government.

    To argue that the nation should have assumed a half trillion of foreign debt in order to avoid a few days inconvenience for a small number of ATM users is an argument that, unsurprisingly, has its origins in the EU’s propaganda department (which you also fund as an EU citizen to the tune of 2.4 billion per year).