Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Voting Yes

How odd it was to see Micheál Martin and Enda Kenny go Tango and Cash on Questions and Answers last night. Tango and Cash, as you recall, is the cult 1980s movie about two maverick cops who put aside personal differences to ace the bad guys, and that’s what an increasingly desperate establishment has been doing in the hopes of saving the listing referendum campaign.

How did it come to this? Micheál Martin may have put his finger on it without realising it on Rodney Rice’s Radio show on Saturday. Martin was making the point that the Lisbon Treaty is a triumph of Irish diplomacy, a credit to the Irish presidency of the EU that they were able to rescue the project when all seemed lost after the French and Dutch shot down the original constitution. This then begs they question: why on Earth didn’t they say so before?

Most constitutions are aspirational documents. They suggest things rather than laying them down. The Irish constitution, like the man who wrote it, likes things in black and white. This is why we end up having referenda every couple of years when the plates shift and readjust in Brussels. Any Irish government is generally faced with three questions coming up to one of these referenda on how best to tackle it.

  1. Draft a constitutional amendment to say that from here on in changes in Brussels can be effected by act of Parliament without recourse to referendum.

  2. Try and sneak the referendum through by flying it under the radar, hoping the core vote will come out and Richard Boyd Barrett is on his holidays. In Cuba, probably.

  3. Give the electorate credit for not being complete dummies and have a debate about the European project that will be as informative as it will be mind-numbingly boring.

The first choice is the most sensible of the three, and the least likely to happen. Not least if Lisbon is squeaked through this time around. One of the reasons why referendum is in danger of being lost is that the people feel that the Government has been going for a fast one, and they don’t like that one little bit. They certainly will not sign off on a licence to do that without considerable persuading.

The second option is the one that the Government chose, and it’s clearly blown up in their face. RBB isn’t at the van of this one – although your vigilant quillsman saw him on the news last night, protesting – but there’s a whole other bunch that are, existing without visible means of support. It is a highly mistaken assumption that the electorate are sheep, despite behaving like sheep so regularly in the polling booth. Every now and then these lambs grow fangs, and start biting people on the arse. This is one such instance of that.

The third option was the way to go. If the Government said from the end of the EU presidency that the Lisbon treaty was the greatest act of Irish diplomacy and statesmanship since Frank Aiken was at the UN in the 1960s, that would have been the way to go. They could then repeat the message over the two years or so they had to campaign and that would then deprive Libertas of the opportunity to spout the sort of nonsense that they have been doing. Most of Libertas’ arguments are mischievous at best. Ireland’s sovereign position hasn’t changed since 1973, and won’t. Ireland’s commissioner is going anyway, and this is the best possible compromise. Germany’s voting power doubling in respect to Ireland still leaves Germany at a disadvantage. There for four million Irish, eighty million Germans. For democracy to come into effect Germany would have to increase its voting power by a factor of twenty.

The fact that the Germans themselves are willing to put up with such an arrangement that flies in the face of logic (and what could be more anathema to Germans than something that flies in the face of logic?) is testimony to the remarkable deal Ireland gets in Europe. How is this going to be strengthened by a no vote? If we vote no, it means we do not trust the Government to negotiate these deals at European level – even though we elected them to do just that just a year ago. And if the Government aren’t to negotiate these deals, who does? Declan Ganley?

Eamon Dunphy was rambling on Marian Finucane’s radio show on Sunday about some quote from Valéry Giscard d'Estaing that the Lisbon Treaty contains a clause that is so momentous that it is buried deep in the legal thickets. A clause that is so divisive that if it were only known the treaty would be held in contempt by all right thinking citizens from the Urals to Belmullet.

Eamon did not go on to say what exactly this mystery clause is. Is it the third secret of Fatima? Is it the DaVinci Code? Is it why Cristiano Ronaldo gets so much money when he’s not a great player? Is Valéry Giscard d'Estaing a member of the Illuminati, and wants Europe to be run by the lizards?

Eamon didn’t say, and An Spailpín certainly doesn’t know what it is either. An Spailpín is inclined to suspect, however, that Eamo is simply spoofing, at which activity Eamo would have a bit of previous.

The Government’s attempts to sneak the Lisbon Treaty through under the radar does them no credit, and some mischievous elements have been able to combine the brewing discontent over the plummeting economy, the fact that people don’t like being sold pups and the fact the treaty is unintelligible to the man in the street into a huge groundswell of opposition to the treaty. As far as your Spailpín is concerned, not understanding the treaty is not sufficient reason to vote against it. If you elect a Government to legislate, you’ve got to trust them to that that job, until such time as you elect someone else. When Mr Ganley is elected to something, we’ll know he has a mandate. In the meantime, voting yes is the only sensible option.

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