Thursday, June 12, 2008


Ireland's date with destiny arrives

As I write this there are just over five hours to go until the polls open for the Lisbon Treaty referendum. I have been following the EU constitution/Lisbon Treaty closely almost since the time I set up this blog three and a half years ago. I genuinely regard opposing the EU's proposals in this Treaty to be as important for this island as the reunification of the country.

By the time you read this the polls may indeed be open. With that being the case I would urge anyone reading now to please get down to your local polling station and have your say on this hugely important matter. We are the only country in the EU to have the opportunity to vote - which in itself is an absolute disgrace - so it is only proper to get out there and exercise your democratic right. Who knows, it might be one of the last times we are actually able to make a difference via democracy. Let us hope not.

As readers of UI will know, I am staunchly against this Treaty. I have in the past few weeks come up against those who made a good case for supporting Lisbon, namely Dr Diana Panke of UCD who I interviewed a few weeks back. Likewise I have in the past few weeks come up against those who made a shockingly poor case for supporting the Treaty, namely the campaigner who came to my door and told me this was the 'Premier League' and that a No vote would mean 'relegation'. Talk to me with facts please. I would also have to mention the fellow who suggested to me that a No vote could lead to Ireland being 'kicked out' of the EU. If you're going to lie to me at least keep your lies within reason OK?

Ultimately I feel there is no strong case for supporting this Treaty. I've heard people I have respect for, such as Labour's Joan Burton, talking about how it protects women's rights, stops the trafficking of people etc. As far as I'm concerned, these matters can be dealt with in a way that that doesn't force us to sacrifice important aspects of our sovereignty. I also resent the bashing from the Yes side such as Bertie Ahern blasting those against the Treaty as 'lunatics' and Garret Fitzgerald suggesting we are 'nitpickers of the extreme right and left'. I likewise detest the scaremongering which tries to frighten voters into voting Yes for fear of what might happen to Ireland's status within Europe. The Irish people have always been a defiant nation, and I just hope there are enough defiant voters at the polls on Thursday.

I strongly believe that a No vote is essential for the country. It accomplishes three things. It sends a message to the EU that we will not be bullied, it sends a message that we will not settle for a poor deal for Europeans and it sends a message that abusing democracy is unacceptable and that greater consultation with the peoples of nation-states is required.

Here is a brief summary of some of the reasons I have decided to oppose the Lisbon Treaty.

Ireland loses its Commissioner for five years at a time.

This could have dire implications for a small country like ourselves without anybody fighting our corner.

Tax concerns

The French don't like our low corporation tax and have long sought to do something about it. According to many commentators, there are avenues the French can explore to get their wish. I don't doubt that one bit.

Creates an unelected President and a Foreign Minister of Europe

I am utterly against such an idea and see no logic to it other than to set us further down the road to an EU Superstate.

Promotes a militarised European Union

We're supposed to be so enamoured with our 'tradition of neutrality' yet I've not heard one Irish person ask the following - why the hell does the EU need to militarise in the first place, hmm? I don't think it needs to. We have a UN peacekeeping force, which includes many brave Irish troops, and if we need to improve the UN then let's do that. An important principle behind the creation of the European Union was so that Europe would never have to go to war again. Why then are we faced with proposals that would see Europe involved in a war? What do I think the real reasoning is behind it? See above.

"RESOLVED to continue the process of creating an ever closer union among the peoples of Europe, in which decisions are taken as closely as possible to the citizen in accordance with the principle of subsidiarity.

"IN VIEW of further steps to be taken in order to advance European integration."

Taken from the preamble of the Lisbon Treaty.

"Every citizen shall have the right to participate in the democratic life of the Union. Decisions shall be taken as openly and as closely as possible to the citizen."

Article 10.3 of the Lisbon Treaty. A rather hollow claim since no other EU country has been entitled to a referendum on the Treaty, despite Gordon Brown promising the British people a say and despite the French and Dutch voters rejecting the EU's proposals when voting on the EU Constitution.

"There will be no treaty if we had a referendum in France."

French President Nicolas Sarkozy showing the true colours of the EU and highlighting the insincerity of the above article.

"As from 1 November 2014, a qualified majority shall be defined as at least 55 % of the members of the Council, comprising at least fifteen of them and representing Member States comprising at least 65 % of the population of the Union.

"A blocking minority must include at least four Council members, failing which the qualified majority shall be deemed attained."

Article 16.4 of the Lisbon Treaty. It is not worth giving up important national vetoes for such a flawed system.

"The Member States shall work together to enhance and develop their mutual political solidarity. They shall refrain from any action which is contrary to the interests of the Union or likely to impair its effectiveness as a cohesive force in international relations."

Article 24 of the Treaty. Ireland has friends outside the EU. Will we be forced to blindly follow the path set by France and Germany, lest we be deemed to be 'impairing' the EU's 'effectiveness' in international relations? This troubles me.

"The European Council shall identify the Union's strategic interests, determine the objectives of and define general guidelines for the common foreign and security policy, including for matters with defence implications. It shall adopt the necessary decisions."

From Article 26.1. I would rather see greater powers for the European Parliament which is the EU's only directly elected parliamentary body. I don't like that the European Council dictates the EU's foreign and security policies. Do you?

"If a member of the Council declares that, for vital and stated reasons of national policy, it intends to oppose the adoption of a decision to be taken by qualified majority, a vote shall not be taken. The High Representative will, in close consultation with the Member State involved, search for a solution acceptable to it. If he does not succeed, the Council may, acting by a qualified majority, request that the matter be referred to the European Council for a decision by unanimity."

Article 31. I have no faith whatsoever in any Irish party having the guts to stand up to the EU on an issue of importance, facing the kind of pressure that would come as outlined above.

"The High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy shall regularly consult the European Parliament on the main aspects and the basic choices of the common foreign and security policy and the common security and defence policy and inform it of how those policies evolve. He shall ensure that the views of the European Parliament are duly taken into consideration. Special representatives may be involved in briefing the European Parliament.

"The European Parliament may ask questions of the Council or make recommendations to it and to the High Representative."

Is this a good enough role for the European Parliament in your opinion? To me this makes the E.P. a glorified version of our Seanad.

7 - the number of votes Ireland will be entitled to under the qualified majority voting system.

To put that in perspective, Bulgaria gets 10 votes, the Czech Republic gets 12 votes, Romania get 14 votes and the UK, Italy France and Germany all get 29 votes. Is that really fair on Ireland? I don't see why my country should be punished for having a small population. I was under the impression EU citizens were supposed to be equals.

"public opinion will be led to adopt, without knowing it, the proposals that we dare not present to them directly".

Valéry Giscard d’Estaing, another former French president and architect of the constitution spells out what most have us have known for a long time.

"The aim is to focus the campaign on overall benefits of the EU rather than the Treaty itself."

A leaked memo from a civil servant in the Department of Foreign Affairs to a Diplomat in the British Embassy outlining the Yes side's agenda.

"We need a European defence, a European army, not just on paper but a force genuinely capable of operating in the field, including beyond the European borders ... The philosophy behind all these proposals - economic, political, military - is always the same… And I am also quite clear that I am advocating a more powerful Europe, also a more closely integrated Europe ... In short I am advocating a United States of Europe."

Belgian Prime Minister Guy Verhofstadt, speaking in March 2006. Says it all.

Ladies and gentlemen, if you are as deeply troubled by the direction the EU is taking as I am, then you can do something about it. Get out of the house, never mind what the weather's like or what football match is on the telly, and use your vote while you still can. I implore you to say No to the Lisbon Treaty.

This is probably going to be the last time I'm going to comment on the Treaty until the results come in. If we lose the battle then at least we can say we went down having done our best. You can't be a part-time democrat. You either abide by the people's views or you don't. I do, and I hope that the Irish people consign this Treaty to the dustbin. It is in the hands of the electorate now. The future direction of the EU is in our hands, and the hopes of future generations are on our shoulders.

"A common trait that can be found in all humans is a desire to be treated fairly. Countless events in history around the world have shown that when you back people into a corner, they come out fighting. It is an attribute that we call defiance and it is something that can certainly be found in the Irish character."

United Irelander, 90th anniversary of the Easter Rising celebrations.



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