Pssst, Google has a secret - it's an interesting, lively treaty debate

Tue, Jun 10, 2008, 01:00

Ignoring a suggestion to spoil their ballots, young voters elect to keep the debate rockin', writes Róisín Ingleat the interactive web debate, Google HQ, Blanchardstown, Dublin.

THOSE VISITING the Google European headquarters in Dublin yesterday for an interactive web debate on the Lisbon Treaty were forced to sign confidentiality agreements.

It may be breaking this agreement - don't know, didn't read it, too complicated, sound familiar? - to reveal that the internet company provides employees with retro sweets on tap and gigantic brainstorming beanbags. Plus, there's table tennis. And foosball. (Sorry, Google, but other employers really need to hear this stuff.)

We weren't just here for the free bags of cola bottles, though. That much-maligned organisation Rock The Vote, purveyors of cheesy YouTube videos of "celebrities" trying desperately to mobilise younger voters, had teamed up with Google and RTÉ.ie to host the country's first interactive debate on the treaty.

Also, Rock the Vote director Gearóid O'Rourke wanted to encourage voters who feel bamboozled to register their confusion on polling day. "If you really don't understand the Treaty by Thursday and feel you can't cast an informed vote, then we suggest you spoil your ballot," said Mr O'Rourke.

Sitting waiting for the debate to begin were Trinity College students Shane McNamee (19) from Co Dublin and Faye Dinsmore (20) from Co Donegal. Neither had any intention of spoiling their vote.

"Europe has been so good to Ireland but I do wonder whether the issues have been made so unclear for a reason," said Faye, undecided for now. Despite the fact the No side "are full of crazies encouraging people to vote No for the wrong reasons", Shane was inclined to vote No, because "it's just the constitution repackaged and also I don't think it's right that we are the only country allowed to vote on the treaty".

Moderator Ryan Tubridy wisely resisted turning up in a "down with the kids" ensemble of hoodie/skinny jeans, and wore a smart, but distinctly fogeyish, suit. Over 45 minutes he did a good job of making sure Yes TDs Lucinda Creighton (FG), Barry Andrews, (FF) and Joan Burton (Labour) and the No side made up of Naoise Nunn of Libertas, Eoin O'Broin (Sinn Féin) and Sinéad Kennedy, editor of www.voteno.ie, didn't indulge in too much waffle.

In fact, with Barry Andrews admitting the Yes side "yawned" their way into the start of the campaign, Naoise Nunn, admitting, sort of, that the attack on Lucinda Creighton at the beginning of their campaign might have contradicted the Libertas slogan "facts not politics", and Tubridy saying things like "do you have a monkey's what he just said?" it was an interesting, engaging discussion even if Tubridy said "keep it rockin'" more than was strictly necessary.

The debate was streamed live on the RTÉ website with contributors who asked questions about everything from how the vote would affect our international reputation and the thorny commissioner issue, to military expansion and taxation.

Afterwards, Faye said the Yes side had convinced her to get off the fence while Shane, agreeing with much of what the Yes side had to say, was still on the side of "the crazies" and voting No.