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  • irishtimes.com - Posted: July 8, 2008 @ 9:17 am

    Lady Bracknell and the Lisbon Treaty

    Deaglán de Bréadún

    My late and much-missed Irish Times colleague Dick Walsh wrote a very useful and interesting book about Fianna Fail, entitled The Party. His father had been a founder-member and throughout his life Dick was fascinated by the Soldiers of Destiny. Over the years they developed characteristics that Dick found distasteful, yet they kept on getting elected again and again and again. As he points out in his book, the very people who had opposed the establishment of the Free State by force of arms went on to take over its institutions and remould them in their own image. FF has now been in power for 23 out of the past 30 years and their bottoms have only occasionally warmed the opposition benches over the past three-quarters of a century.
            That’s why one must greet with some scepticism the airy predictions that a second referendum will be held on the Lisbon Treaty. Admirers of the EU project naturally wish to see Ireland at the centre of things and regret this blot on our escutcheon as model Europeans. But at the end of the day the side with the most votes wins and there are reasons to doubt that the Lisbon result can be reversed next time around.
            Certainly, mid-level contacts in Fianna Fail are openly sceptical about the chances of turning things around with a second run at the polls. Indeed, observers both inside and outside the party have expressed the view that there is a new mood among the public that is dubious about politicians in general, feels alienated from the ruling elite (with “the meeja” seen as part of that) and believes it did not get a fair share of Celtic Tiger largesse.
            They weren’t prepared to take it out on FF in the general election because they feared the consequences of bringing in new, untried management to run the economy. So they used Lisbon to give their rulers a risk-free rabbit-punch. A reheated Lisbon presented to the voters next spring could well get the same response.
            That would have major implications for Europe but, even more importantly in the eyes of Fianna Fail, it would have serious consequences for them. As Oscar Wilde’s inimitable Lady Bracknell might say, “To lose one referendum could be seen as a misfortune, to lose two would look like carelessness.” There would be Opposition calls on Brian Cowen to resign and, even if he stayed on, the local and European elections next summer would probably go much worse than expected. The prospect of the Government lasting its full term would be very slim indeed.
            Needless to say, other EU leaders are keen for Cowen to dip his toe in the scalding water again. Germany’s Chancellor Merkel is understood to have pressed the case particularly strongly. There are rumblings about a new strategy to “put the frighteners” on the electorate with dire warnings about exclusion from the European club but Irish voters are a stubborn lot and this approach could well prove counter-productive.
            And then there’s the economy. No politician likes going to the polls when the indicators are going the wrong way and that includes promoting a Treaty that has already been rejected. Fianna Fail did not achieve its overwhelming dominance in this State with moves like that and will think long and hard before taking the risk again.

    #Deaglán de Bréadún, Political Correspondent, The Irish Times, is author of The Far Side of Revenge: Making Peace in Northern Ireland, recently published in a second edition by Collins Press, Cork (www.collinspress.ie)

    • Deirdre says:

      WOW Tiny font!!!!

    • Deirdre says:

      Teeny tiny font

    • Eoin says:

      Interesting analysis of why FF might shy away from a re-run.

      Whisper it, but it’s actually a legal moot point as to whether we need to have a referendum on these treaties. The Crotty judgment wasn’t that clear cut. Law academics have more to say on that. However, it would be a very unpopular move for the Government not to let the people vote and ratify it by some other means.

      By the way, it was a thoughtful piece but blog posts need to be snappier – some of the time at least.

    • Dan Sullivan says:

      Welcome to the world of blogging lads.

      My take on it is if there is to be another run at the Lisbon topic, I would plump for it being held the same day as the local and European elections. FF could take the view that this will serve to distract people and to get more parts of the party organisation engaged and that with improved mood music that the Treaty (with various caveats noted by our European Partners that we won’t be called upon to send our children to the Somme or that the new EU President won’t be telling us we’re bold very often) could just squeak past.

      However, that runs the risk of people voting against cllr X of FF because the people are opposed to the Treaty, and it also opens the real possibility of local reps breaking ranks and campaigning for re-election on the basis opposition to the Treaty.

    • Coops says:

      If the Europeans want to “put the frightners on”, then I suggest the fearsome-sounding LE Aisling is sent out to remind their fisherman where our territorial waters end! :-)

    • pragmatica says:

      People voting no had very little to do with punishing the government.it had more to do with the fact that too many of them were too lazy to search out what the issues where and instead followed the very well presented and simplistic arguments of the NO campaign.The whole issue is a mess and demonstrates why the reorganisation of the health service should not be put to referendum and neither should we put the world trade agreement out to refererendum or indeed the restructuring of the CAP.Complex legalistic,administrative documents should only be dealt with by our elected representatives and our civil servants.
      The other problem with the referendum of course is that it was a vote without responsibility,ie the irish say no and the rest of us in EU have our opinions ignored.I think under the circumstances,Ireland should do the decent thing and withdraw from the Union and let the rest of Europe live in the real world and move on.Who knows,EU might give you associated status similar to Costa Rica with the USA and perhaps the UK might also grant you associated status with them.

    • Deaglán says:

      I’ve tried to make the font bigger, Deirdre. The Blogosphere is new territory for me. Can’t persuade myself FF will go for a re-run, although Micheal Martin was hinting recently at Danish-style opt-outs (similar to what happened in Denmark over the Maastricht Treaty). That implies a second referendum, but it might be possible to argue, if the opt-outs were sufficiently weighty, that the remainder of the Treaty could be passed by the Oireachtas. Remember how FF promised a referendum on Partnership for Peace, then ran it through the Dail when they got back into government? But any suggestion that these matters could only be understood by civil servants and elected politicans would go down badly with the public and play into the hands of those who condemn the EU as “elitist”. It doesn’t help when senior government figures say they haven’t read the Treaty or reveal a lack of knowledge about the structure of the European Council.

    • Liam Mullen says:

      To Pragmatica
      Maybe the poles should be evicted too for threatening European security with Missile DS from America. Maybe also the English should be evicted for not using the Euro etc etc etc.
      The Irish offered a no vote as a result of the changes that would be imposed on the governance of the EU, changes that were radical in their impact on Ireland and other small nations in favour of the big players like France Germany and UK etc.
      Maybe we should leave and affiliate ourselves to Russia and offer naval bases etc in the North Atlantic in return for some oil and gas revenues.

    • Tore Toivicco says:

      Message to Iirish people about Lisbon treaty:

      Lisbon treaty seems to be totally strange and deleting democracy or human rights?


      I’ve read an article which states that police gets rights to shoot people in some situations.

      These kind of things are totalitarian politics.

      It also probably stops right to go on strike.


      And all this in whole Europe…

      It is sad to notice that all other countries have accepted this treaty, but many governments have not even given people chance to vote about it.

      Irish government has given you this right,…anyway it is really strange that Ireland maybe votes again about this, and only after few months?(or 2009?)

      EU elite needs this YES, and they have ordered new voting?

      If this is true it shows how horrible secret elite rules EU, and what can we expect from the future?
      Lisbon treaty is basically giving ‘Gestapo’-laws to EU-government, if needed?

      And they seem to need those laws fast?

      Vote NO, and save the world?

      F.ex. in many european countries media and politicians has almost 100% ignored discussions about this subject, and people are not even aware about whole thing?

      It is also good to remember that USA has now similar ‘martial laws’ there, after 11th september 2001… ?

      EU security officials decide about all security matters of whole EU?

      Also there is some things which makes it very difficult for normal people to complain and get things corrected if there is wrongful handlings?

      I hope I am wrong, but this whole thing , and how it has been handled seems really wrong? And it is not a democratic way to handle politics.?



      I am harassed so much all the time that this writing may include errors.

      -Tore Toivicco

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