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  • irishtimes.com - Posted: September 4, 2009 @ 8:41 am

    Irish Times poll on Lisbon – mind the gap!

    Harry McGee

    The gap is closing. But as last year, it’s in which direction the don’t knows jumpthat will determine this referendum.

    Some 46 per cent backing the treaty isn’t where the Yes camp thought they would be at this stage of the game. The only consolation that they can take from the eight point drop in support is that it has not migrated to the No camp but rather into the Don’t Know group. But the experience of last year will show us that even though there is a 17 per cent gap between Yes and No, which is at 29 per cent, that gap is not insuperable.

    In his front page story this morning Stephen Collins notes:

    “In the Irish Times poll at a similar stage in the first Lisbon Treaty referendum campaign, 35 per cent said they would vote Yes, 18 per cent said No and 47 per cent said Don’t Know.”

    What happened after that was that the Yes campaign hit the doldrums as its lacklustre campaign failed to deal with people’s confusion about what the treaty was about and about their fears about possible changes that would occur in Irish life as a result. And the don’t knows herded in mass over the No side.

    Why I think it’s differerent now: This time, the clarity (whatever its quality) on issues, will appease some of those who voted No last year. I don’t think the ‘if you don’t know, vote no’ argument will have the same purchase with people. I also think that the prevailing economic situation will benefit the Yes side. The Yes campaign was just a mess last year. The parties just didn’t bother and the Yes message was disjointed an confused. This time it will be different. The message is more focused. The campaigning will be more intense. They will be far quicker to attack claims being made by the No side.

    That’s why I believe that the yeahs will (just about) have it.

    The Cóir campaging has cynicism written all over it. Lucinda Creighton had an apt word to describe it yesterday, “nitpick”. She said thsat now that assurances have been given on the Commisisoner, tax, abortion etc, the No camp have scoured the treaty document looking for a whole new set of issues to nitpick over. That includes an alarmist claim about the minimum wage about which the comrades in Cóir have become exercised. And while we are at it. The SIPTU endorsement of the campaign yesterday was tedious read (written in homage to the ‘how many angels can dance on the head of a pin’ genre). It essentially damned the treaty with faint praise. In essence, the union said it would endorse the treaty but only because the Labour Party hasundertaken to ensure that workers’ rights are protected, once it returns to power.

    The two flaws in that argument are:

    1. The union has rejected the Treaty as it stands. That is the reality. But it shies away from saying that. It’s Yes is wholly conditional on the Labour Party returning to Government, and also on Labour having the influence on its coalition partner to make the necessary changes.

    2. It makes the assumption there will be an early change of Government. I don’t think this coalition will run its full course. But equally, there won’t be an election for at least another year, in my opinion.

    A classic sitting-on-the-fence document. It’s hardly exhorting its members to go out and campaign for a Yes vote or a No vote. It’s saying, lads, we are hedging our bets and saying the softest Yes, but only on sufferance.

    • Good analysis, but my concern is the Yes side are squandering the single most coherent argument in favour of Lisbon, keeping the commissioner.

      Many political (have to say it) elites will discredit this, many in FG will even publicly (Deputy Creighton included) decry the need for a commissioner for each memberstate, but it’s the single biggest gain for Lisbon 2 and the failure to engage on this point will damage the Yes vote.

      IBEC says Yes for job, FF says we need Europe, Labour wants us to work with Europe and Fine Gael want us to say yes to recovery and yes to Europe. They are the big campaign slogans. Not a single iota of info on why this vote is a better vote (in terms of what was gained).

      I think there’s a certain level of arrogance, even in today’s Irish Times leader about the likelihood of a no vote. I agree this treaty should be passed, but the dissatisfaction with Cowen and the government, anger over the economy, job losses and Nama are putting this into doubt.

      Enda Kenny yesterday said the referendum shouldn’t become a referendum on Cowen, utterings like that have a feel of self-fulfilling prophecy, because if this referendum were to become a referendum on Cowen, the treaty would be dead. Simple as.

      The IT are looking positively at the figures, but at this time in Lisbon 1 the Yes side was much further ahead in the polls than it is now, and still lost.

      The yes side from last time will vote yes again, the no side need to be convinced, the key to this is telling them they got a better deal. This simply isn’t happening. Tame mutterings about guarantees with no passionate plea to the no camp that their vote made a difference is a big issue.

      If I was campaigning for a Yes vote, I’d ensure the no camp were convinced they did the right thing and got a better deal. That’s why I’m happy to have voted Not hen, and that’s why I’m voting Yes now.

    • Harry says:

      Astute obersvations David. Gilmore and Kenny have used the ‘don’t make it a referendum on the government’ argument this week. They did exactly the same last year. You say self-fulfilling. I say self-serving.

    • Brian Boru says:

      I don’t accept that the guarantee on the Commissioner is water-tight. Why was it excluded from the Council “decisions”? I also regard the guarantees generally as worthless, because they are not part of the Treaties. We have been given no guarantees as to when they will be included in the Treaties, and that makes me suspicious.

      You mention the economy, but the affect may be the opposite to what you think. It may provoke a large protest vote that regards the removal of Cowen as the first step to economic recovery. His vacillating leadership and his failure to take tough decisions until far too late has greatly exacerbated the crisis in the public finances, while questions of competitiveness have not been addequately addressed. The question of the rip-off culture in the professions has been farmed out to yet another ‘committee’ by Tanaiste Mary Coughlan, just as happened with taxation and public-sector reform before them.

      I would also add that after Spain voted yes in 2005, unemployment doubled from 9% to 18%, disproving the thesis that a yes vote will help the economy. That the yes side has declined 8% in spite of wall-to-wall media coverage of Intel and Ryanair calling for a yes vote underlines that the attempts to link the economy with a yes vote are not meeting with acceptance by a substantial segment of the electorate. After 11 years of Tribunals, we are cynical about the motives of businessmen who align themselves with politicians. I will vote no because of the dismantling of our immigration controls by the Charter of Fundamental Rights and the referendum legislation (28th Amendment to the Constitution Bill 2009). Article 15.1 states that ‘everyone’ has the right to work. This will be used in the ECJ to overturn the Irish ban on asylum-seekers working. Article 19.1 of the Charter states that ‘collective expulsions are forbidden’. This will be used by the ECJ to block deportations on foot of challenges by asylum-lawyers. I am also very concerned by provisions in Paragraph 7 of the referendum-legislation allowing the Government to take us into the Schengen area (abolishing passport-controls on travel from 25 states) as well as allowing the Government/Oireachtas to surrender the optout Protocol 21 on justice and home affairs, meaning Qualified Majority Voting will decide on asylum and immigration, policing, powers of Europol etc. We would be reduced to having a 0.8% say in our own justice policy. Is this what the men of 1916 died for?

    • Tony says:

      If Ireland votes “No” a second time, there will be a lot of pressure in Europe to say farewell to Ireland as a member of the EU.

    • Brian Boru says:

      I don’t agree Tony. The French and Dutch have already voted no, and the British will next year when the Tories get in. The Czech and Polish presidents have refused to sign the treaty, while the former Czech PM who negotiated the Treaty told the European Parliament in a speech that it would have been rejected in a Czech referendum. It is the elites who are out of touch, not us. In any case, no country can be expelled from the EU.

    • Seb says:

      “If Ireland votes “No” a second time, there will be a lot of pressure in Europe to say farewell to Ireland as a member of the EU.”

      And here you have your typical non-productive scaremongerer..

    • Tommy Ward says:

      Tony love, We cannot be thrown out of the EU. France and the Netherlands werent as there is no mechanism for ejecting a member who doesnt vote as he is told to. If it were true it would just be another reason to vote no, so stop scaremongering. There are no advantages to Ireland in any form in voting yes. No more money, no more representation, no more influence, simply nothing, so go away and read some scary stories to the kid’s by way of a bedtime treat.

    • Franz says:

      Ireland got a lot of money from the EU to push the economy.

    • Barbara says:

      If the promises re the Commissioner etc meant anything, the Lisbon Treaty would have to be re-written to incorporate that, and all 27 countries would have to re-ratify it.
      But guess what? It isn’t being re-written. The promises are empty.

    • Brian Boru says:

      Franz, any money we got was paid for with the surrender of our fish to the Spanish.

    • Lee says:

      Its a bit bullyboyish isn it? “Vote for me or you’re out on yer ear!”
      Don’t know if you anyone in theri right mind would like to belong to such a “club”.

    • Marcus says:

      Brian Boru- If we vote No we lose the Commissioner, and as for fisheries, ok, fine, I accept that Ireland didn’t profit a lot from fisheries but you’re looking at a very narrow piece of the EU. What we lost in fishing we made in farming and development, come on, Ireland was a poor country before we joined and we would have remained a poor country without it. Oh and you don’t approve the Charter of Fundamental Rights?? That was created by the UN. You don’t think everyone has the right to work? My God, you don’t care about people at all, it’s no wonder that the leaders of Concern and Trócaire have both come out to say that Ireland should vote yes.

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