Yes vote an expression of grim fatalism
If people did believe what Michael Noonan had told us, the main argument for a Yes vote would have collapsed
Which of these statements is more delusional? (a) “I know we didn’t win but we are still really influential around the world” – John Grimes of Jedward after finishing 19th in the Eurovision Song Contest. (b) “The referendum result was a loud expression of confidence in the Irish economy, and another reminder that Ireland is dealing effectively with its problems” – Eamon Gilmore after victory in the referendum on the Euro Zone Masochism Contest.
Sapient conclaves of sages and vast batteries of eggheads may ponder this question for many a year without coming to a confident conclusion. But, in the end, Jedward must be judged a mere light year or two closer to reality than the Tánaiste. For if Eamon Gilmore really believes the referendum result is “a loud expression of confidence in the Irish economy”, things are very far gone indeed.
The truth is precisely the reverse: most of those who voted Yes did so because they believe the plan for “recovery” is failing. The mark of that failure is the strong likelihood that, after repeated assurances to the contrary, Ireland will not be able to return to the international financial markets next year and will instead need another set of loans from the troika. The central self-declared aim of the Government – to restore sovereignty to the State by ending the “bailout” regime – is looking increasingly unachievable.
Less than six months ago, the whole idea of a second bailout was literally unthinkable and unspeakable. Michael Noonan told us in January that there was “no question” of the Government even “considering” a second bailout. “It’s ludicrous to be talking about a second bailout when we’re in and meeting all the targets of the first programme.” Yet by the time the referendum campaign came around, this absurd, outrageous proposition wasn’t just worthy of contemplation, it was by far the most potent weapon in the Government’s political arsenal. The single, overwhelming reason to vote Yes was that we will probably need another bailout and that a No vote would put it at risk.
Here we see the deep strangeness of contemporary Irish politics. In a normal world, if people don’t believe the Government, they vote against it. But in the topsy-turvy world we currently inhabit, people voted for the Government line precisely because they don’t believe the Government. If people did believe what Michael Noonan had told us – that a second bailout is a ludicrous and inconceivable notion – the main argument for a Yes vote would have collapsed.