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  • irishtimes.com - Posted: June 20, 2009 @ 3:45 pm

    Once More into the Breach on Lisbon

    Deaglán de Bréadún

    Given the number of bad weeks he has had since becoming Taoiseach, it was about time for Brian Cowen to have a good one. He got his guarantees and  his  protocols on the Lisbon Treaty and even managed to convey the impression of a little “Brit-bashing” along the way.


    Did Brian really put Brown in his box in Brussels? (Photograph by Frank Miller from May 2008 at Stormont)

    Those of us who have been observing the political scene for a long time are generally rather sceptical about scenarios such as “Brian puts Gordon in his place and successfully resists pressure from the ancient foe in a prime display of Irish sovereignty”.

    But one can nevertheless hear the local councillors around the country introducing “Brian Cowen, the Taoiseach who stood up for the interests of this country against the British”.

    It won’t do him one bit of harm in the Fianna Fáil heartlands (badly-depleted as they are at the moment) and, in the unlikely event that Prime Minister Brown gets to hear about it, he will probably shrug it off with a weary smile. He knows how the game is played and, anyway, has much more to think about these days.

    There seems to be a general consensus that Lisbon is a shoo-in, barring accidents. It would be my contention that the No side didn’t win the last referendum, the Yes side lost it. Likewise with Nice One.

    Laziness, ineptitude, incompetence, what is it about European referendums that they bring out the worst in the political establishment? Can it be that our political system has been so corrupted by  dynastic droits de seigneur  and command management that the powers-that-be have lost the ability to persuade the people of the rightness of a single proposition such as, “What’s good for the EU is good for Ireland”?

    Declan Ganley is off the pitch and presumably Libertas along with him. The farmers will be strongly urged by proponents of the Treaty not to play politics this time. Likewise elements of the trade union movement.

    So, my prediction is that the Yes side will probably win in October but, if they don’t, it will be entirely their own fault.

    • Peter B says:

      Too little, too late and completely lacking in substance – the usual order of business for Cowen and his Government, so nothing new here!!

      As for standing up to the Brits, is this really an achievement given the beleagured state of the British Prime Minister, Government and economy? I’m sure the considerable gombeen element that would seem to exist within FF, the parish pump brigade, will latch onto this idiotic notion. They’re the same crowd that were féting Cowen during the lead in to the last referendum on Lisbon! Does such a cohort still have significant political clout or are they a dying breed? I hope it’s the latter, but suspect not.

    • Brian Boru says:

      I am not convinced by this conjob of ‘guarantees’ that will be overturned by the European Court of Justice. Were the elites serious, they would have annexed them to the Lisbon Treaty. The wording on taxation fails to address the specific threat of CCCTB/destination-corporation-taxes planned by EU Tax Commissioner Laszlo Kovacs who wants to make companies pay their corporate-taxes proportionately to the governments of sales-destination. With 90% of Irish products exported, that would lose the Government billions each year, regardless of the rate at which corporate-tax was levied. We are being promised that if we vote yes, these assurances will be annexed to a future Treaty in the deep blue yonder, like the Croatian accession treaty. However, Slovenia is threatening to veto Croatian accession to the EU on grounds of a maritime border-dispute with its neighbour. And in Croatia itself, the pro-EU side only leads the no side 48-40 in a poll this month. The question of what becomes of the ‘guarantees’ if Croatian membership falls through has not been adequately addressed.

      In any case, these guarantees do not cover my areas of concern which caused me to vote no the last time. Namely, the Charter of Fundamental Rights being enshrined into EU law, the abolition of national vetoes and the govt’s public intention to scrap the optout on Justice and Home Affairs within three years, and the self-amending provisions of Article 48. I cannot accept the Charter, which would give the ECJ the final say on asylum-cases. Article 15 states that ‘everyone has the right to work in a freely chosen occupation’. This will lead to challenges to Ireland’s ban on asylum-seekers working. Article 18 states that ‘collective expulsions are forbidden’. This will lead to challenges to individual deportation-orders in the ECJ. Then there are other provisions, expanding ECJ jurisdiction in a myriad of areas including family law, freedom of speech, capital punishment etc. I am also watching very closely for the referendum-legislation next week. The original one, last year, talked about allowing the Govt to relinquish the veto on Justice and Home Affairs with the consent of the Oireachtas, without a referendum (by relinquishing the relevant Protocol and the UK and Ireland with respect to the area of Justice and Freedom). If that is there again, it’s another reason to vote no, because it would eventually mean Qualified Majority Voting on Justice and Home Affairs, including asylum, immigration, judicial cooperation and policing.

      Finally, let me tackle the dishonesty of politicians telling us we have to vote yes to save the economy. When Spain voted yes to the EU Constitution/Lisbon in 2005, unemployment doubled to its current rate of 18%. If anything, Lisbon will make the recession worse. Article 113 of the Treaty on European Union as amended by Lisbon mandates the European Council to impose “measures of harmonisation” of ‘indirect taxes and turnover taxes’ “to combat distortions of competition”. “Distortions of competition” is a clear reference to our 12.5% corporate-tax rate and a challenge to it is likely if Lisbon goes through. Don’t fall for the line from FF that seeks to shift the blame from their shoulders onto ours. It is their fault and in no way a consequence of the no vote.

    • Jonathan says:

      Well, they won’t get a yes out of me that’s for sure.
      All these “assurances” are just to “reassure” the Irish public that stuff which has nothing to do with the Lisbon Treaty, but which the government was too inept to explain itself, really isn’t in the Lisbon Treaty.
      As for the issues themselves, I really don’t think that the policy which says that you are welcome to have an abortion anywhere you like as long as it’s not here, is a policy worth fighting for.
      And I abhor the concept of neutrality. Belgium was neutral but was still overrun by the Nazis.
      If you think the EU is worth belonging to, and is worth taking lots of money from, then surely you think the EU is worth defending. You can’t take huge amounts of money from the EU and then, if it needs defending, turn round and say “sorry, we’re neutral”. If you don’t think the EU is worth defending, then don’t belong to the EU.
      And apart from any of that, I would never do anything that this government (aka bunch of chancers who run the country like it’s a family business) wants me to do.

    • dealga says:

      No comments visible at the time of reading.

      I’m guessing that, by the time I see this, the usual anti-EU nonsense will have been spouted by the usual suspects all over this blog post.

      All I can say is that if the ‘No (to everything)’ crowd are so sure the ‘Irish people’ *knew* all of the facts first time around, and that their opinion as expressed then deserves respect, they must surely be looking forward to the second referendum with supreme confidence that they will win again.

      Their bleating, however, has reassured me that they know they won’t get away with their reactionary, doom-mongering drivel a second time.

    • kanker says:

      People reading this stuff can’t seriously be stupid enough to believe it, are they? To be on ‘good terms with the people you might need to borrow money from’ is the reason for accepting an EU constritution to override all Irish laws?
      The only thing the author is right about is that Ireland does OWE Europe! IT OWES EUROPE TO VOTE NO BECAUSE WE DID NOT GET TO VOTE. We, the Dutch, rejected the European constitution the first time, just like the French. Now under a new name but 98% the same terrible sh*t it is signed behind our backs with no media coverage at all! Most people outside Ireland do not even know about the Lisbon Treaty. They are trying to ram it down your throat! When studied, it is easy to see the purpose of this Treaty is to take power from elected nationals to unelected, European ‘politicians’. New laws will be made by a minority of countries but imposed to override those in every country! Say NO TO THE TREATY. Democracy will come to an end if it is accepted.

    • ceolas says:

      “my prediction is that the Yes side will probably win in October ”
      - and if not, would that be that….?

      A Bedtime Story for all Nice Children and not so Maastricht Adults


      The Happy Family

      Once upon a time there was a family treaty-ing themselves to a visit in Lisbon.
      On the sunny day that it was they decided to go out together.
      Everyone had to agree on what they would do.
      “So”, said Daddy Brusselsprout “Let’s all go for a picnic!”
      “No”, said Aunt Erin, “I don’t want to”.
      Did they then think of something else, that they might indeed agree on?
      Oh yes they did?
      Oh no they didn’t!
      Daddy Brusselsprout asked all the others anyway, isolating Erin, and then asked her if instead, she would like to go with them to the park and eat out of a lunch basket….

      Kids, we’ll finish this story tomorrow, and remember, in the EU yes means yes and no means yes as well!


    • Deaglán says:

      I note that the Comment Score is running 5-1 against Lisbon. Is the Blogosphere a Eurosceptic domain?

    • Ray D says:

      It is amazing how the national media have largely connived with the Government’s spin that these are legally-binding guarantees when the fact is that they are nothing of the sort. Specifically what they are, is a so-called ‘common interpretation’ of the EU Treaty provisions by the Council of Ministers.

      Two problems arise: Interpretation of the Treaty by the Ministers is of no account under the EU’s rules and constitution. Such interpretation of the Treaty or any EU legal instrument is entirely and solely a matter for the ECJ. In case-law on adopted legal instruments, the ECJ has already decided that Council statements (or indeed Commission statements – both a common emergence from Council of Ministers’ meetings) are of no effect in relation to interpretation of legal texts. These so-called guarantees are only promises therefore. It is a legal fiction to say that they are legally-binding.

      I think that this is a serious development and this sleight-of-hand and falsehold will be seen in due course as an Achilles’ heel in the Government’s campaign. The deceit is manifest in the Government’s haste and need late in the day to raise the possibility of protocols which are legally-binding. But it can be argued that such protocols will never be added to any treaty as these will be completely opposed by some Member States in due course and unanimity is the requirement.

    • Brian Boru says:

      I think in part it reflects a generation-gap on Europe, Deaglán. Polls still show that young people are more sceptical on Europe than their elders . . . and the internet is disproportionately young.

    • Mark says:

      Quite the opposite actually. Just the comments on this blog, strangely enough. Politics.ie is often perceived to be anti-Lisbon (maybe due to its owner) but that’s probably the only prominent online area frequented by Irish people that could potentially fall into the “anti-Lisbon” category. And many would argue that the “grassroots” members of P.ie are largely pro-Lisbon anyway.

      Back on topic – Deaglán, do you reckon the Yes side of the Lisbon debate (FG/FF) will risk playing football against each other ?

      Considering the Donegal bye-election will presumably be soon after Lisbon and that being seen to lead the Lisbon campaign will be something of a vote-getter will they risk damaging each other and thus the Yes side with one eye on Donegal? Or will we see FG and FF playing happy families to ensure they don’t foul-up like they did last time around ..?

    • Deaglán says:

      I’m not sure being seen to lead the Lisbon campaign will have any effect on the Donegal by-election, which will probably not take place until long after the referendum.
      No doubt the pro-Lisbon parties will endeavour to be seen as working together. Riddle me this: how come, if FG has three seats in Mayo, Lisbon was defeated last time, three-to-one, in that constituency?

    • Dan Sullivan says:

      Strictly speaking, Ceolas that story should go as follows:-

      “So”, said Daddy Brusselsprout “Let’s all go for a picnic!” and he then asked each person in turn and they all said Yes up to when he came to Aunt Erin. She said “No I don’t want to because there are monsters in the park”. There were only a few left to ask so he asked them and then they all looked at Aunt Erin and asked her what she meant by there are monsters in it. And she said “some people told me about them, one of them said the monsters would take my babies and another said I wouldn’t be able to get rid of burglars in my house and another said I’d have to join the army and kill people. And I don’t like that though the one that said that to me did like killing people or at least when it was for political aims.”

      And the others said, “Were these the same people that said there were monsters in the last park, and the park before that? That there would be an European Army with soldiers on every bench and inspecting your books and that the book of revelations said the EU was the whore of Babylon?”

      “Kinda,” she said.

      Then they asked her if instead, she would like to go with them to the park and eat out of a lunch basket….while they guaranteed to protect her from the monsters even if they didn’t exist. And she said give me a few months to think about it…

    • Dan Sullivan says:

      Mark, as regards p.ie I think “It mirrored, in all its gaudy chaos, the woolly thinking, messiness, unpredictability, bald inaccuracy, prejudices and tendency towards hyperbole, all the while exposing a broad spectrum of viewpoints for and against. ”


      That no one was willing to admit even to themselves that people were really thinking like this was a major failing on the part of the Yes side. And it reflects poorly on the mainstream media too. Some elements of whom still tell us that no one saw this coming and even now some within it prefer to adopt the Scooby-Doo defence and blame those damn pesky kids.

    • dealga says:

      Dan – you have made my day!

    • robespierre says:

      To play on your theme of droit de seigneur, it was Zeus himself posing as a bull that first raped Europe.

      The problem with EU referendums is that they are nearly all clashes of dreams and themes. The themes come from the extreme right and left and when they have succeeded it is because on some level they have tapped into a stream of the common conscience for those motivated to vote. The dreams tend to come from the proponents of the European project like Gay Mitchell et alea who talk about de Gaspari and the fathers of the ECSC ad nauseam regardless of Joe Public’s interest in Adenauer, Schumann and de Gaspari.

      Both sides employ scaremongering tactics and both sides accuse each other of rank mendacity. From a public presentation point of view this is extremely worrisome from pro-EU parties as it is far easier to cloud the water that it is to clear the air. That is to say, accusations, once made have to be refuted with evidence and Fianna Fáil’s lack of commitment to the European project as a political party has always meant that they have struggled much more than Labour or Fine Gael to show that they are passionate about it, what it can do for us and the additional powers and attributes we benefit from by being a member of the union.

      Brian Cowen has said before that he is a Euro-realist. That is to say, he believes in cooperating only where our national interest is served better by the EU than it would by being on our own. Fine Gael and Labour behave much more like they believe in modern associative inter-dependency which is to say that by cooperating with other countries we create goodwill and an environment through which we disproportionately benefit across a very wide range of areas. In some (like fisheries) we have to concede to the community so we can gain from other areas.

      I fundamentally believe that interdependency is the only foreign policy choice for a small country like our own. I also believe that Micheál Martin as a more positive and fluent communicator than Cowen will do a much better job leading this debate. He was the only government member to have behaved competently last time out.

      I would also like to see a constitutional challenge to the Crotty and McKenna judgements or for primary legislation to be passed to repeal both of them. I may be cynical but I genuinely believe that the only reason Sinn Féin oppose the EU treaties is to exploit the airtime they are guaranteed during a referendum. The Socialist Workers’ Party and Socialist Party oppose free trade so I can understand their objections without ever agreeing with them.

    • Eoin Lynch says:

      You either believe in democracy or in dictatorship.The European elites seem to want to return to the ancien régime system of government. Policymakers that impose laws onto the people should be held accountable by the people.This is why Lisbon should be defeated, as it leads to further unaccountability.

    • Peter B says:

      I think it could go either direction, the vote that is. It will be as much a vote on FF, Cowen and the state of the nation, as the Lisbon Treaty.

    • Deaglán says:

      Hard to see how the Yes side can lose this one although it is theoretically possible. Ganley is off the stage, as far as we know and the main anti-Lisbon voices are on the Far Left which, though a growing force, rarely connects with mainstream opinion (only Joe Higgins can manage this difficult trick.) The farmers and SIPTU took their distance from the Treaty last time but whether they will do so on this occasion seems doubtful – but you never know. It is a long time till October.

    • Niall says:

      Conspiracy theorists love the internet and conspiracy theorists love comment sections even more than the average website. it lets them copy and paste the same baseless drivel on to seventeen different websites in less than five minutes.

    • Ray D says:

      Niall’s comment probably proves Niall’s comment

    • Peter says:

      Czech prime minister Jan Fischer, who chaired a meeting on the supposed ‘new Irish Lisbon Treaty’ (as his country presently holds the EU presidency) was questioned (on Friday 19th June 2009) on these ‘Irish changes’ and dismissed them as nothing of the sort : “The protocol (”changes”) will clarify but not change either the content or the application of the treaty of Lisbon. It is an explanatory clarifying text which changes not a dot nor comma of the Lisbon Treaty.”

      Wake up Ireland and see what’s happening here! They are pushing this through as best they can and using the 400,000-plus people on the live register as an excuse. We are better off out of Europe even though that will never happen because they can’t throw anyone out -it’s against their law. We would continue trading the way we have always been doing without the political integration. Great!
      It would probably come round again some time in the future though, with a different name.

    • Margaret O'Gorman says:

      I am appalled by the scaremongering about Lisbon – and the clear contempt the EU elites hold the Irish in as though we’re all too stupid to make the right decision.

      The reality is that the guarantees are not worth the paper they are written on. They are not written into Lisbon which is self-amending by majoroty voting anyway.

      As for neutrality, well it doesn’t make me feel very comfortable that following Lisbon an EU army and police force will be able to quell riots in our own country.

      This Treaty is appalling for Ireland. And no they’re not going to chuck us out if we say no. There is nothing that currently allows them to do that. It would be illegal – but after Lisbon they will be able to punish countries through fines and intimidation.

      This scaremongering is typical of the politics of fear that dominates today.

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