Strange bedfellows of the anti-Lisbon campaign

Fri, Aug 21, 2009, 01:00

It must be embarrassing for Sinn Féin to be sharing the No platform with such great lovers of Ireland as UKIP and hardline Tories, writes PATSY McGARRY

AND SO they are off, tails up and promising Armageddon once again, that motley crew of many colours in the Vote No to Lisbon campaign.

There was Mary Lou (McDonald of Sinn Féin) and Joe (Higgins of the Socialist Party) and Bríd (Smith of the People Before Profit Alliance) and Jimmy (Kelly of the Unite trade union). All are members of the Campaign Against the EU Constitution (CAEUC) which launched the No to Lisbon campaign, part II, last Tuesday. Surely some mistake. Is it not Wednesday’s child which is “full woe”?

Mary Lou, Joe, Bríd and Jimmy were joined at the launch by their friends in affiliated groups such as the Peace and Neutrality Alliance, the Irish Republican Socialist Party, Irish Friends of Palestine Against Lisbon and socialist republican group Éirigí. Waiting in the wings to lend their support too we have the National Platform, the People’s Movement, Voteno.ie and Cóir.

Ah yes, Cóir and Éirígí. Isn’t it a sad day for the Irish language that whenever we now see any new political organisation with an Irish name those same two words, “isolationist and backward”, spontaneously come to mind? Cóir, for instance, give the impression that neither the pope, the Vatican nor the Irish (Roman) bishops are Catholic at all when it comes to the EU. Éirígí, for its part, when not hijacking protests by the Shell to Sea campaign or by Thomas Cook workers, would be identified by many as among supporters of “traitors to the island of Ireland”. That was how Martin McGuinness described the murderers of soldiers Mark Quinsey and Patrick Azimkar and PSNI constable Stephen Carroll in Northern Ireland earlier this year.

But then, all Sinn Féin’s giants appear to be in Northern Ireland. Looking into her heart last Tuesday Mary Lou saw how, in the immediate future, people would even describe her and her CAEUC colleagues as “isolationist and backward”. As if! But is this not the same Sinn Féin which has opposed every single vote on the EU in the Republic since and including our decision to join the then EEC back in 1973? Indeed it is.

Is this not the same Mary Lou who set something of a record for an Irish MEP when it came to her non-attendance at sessions of the last European Parliament (even if, as she has explained, she was on maternity leave)? To be sure, it is.

Well, well. Of course, it is a little embarrassing that Sinn Féin should find itself sharing this consistently anti-EU stance with members of Éirígí and those other great lovers of Ireland and all things Irish, the United Kingdom Independence Party (UKIP) and hard-line UK Tories. But hey, politics makes for strange bedfellows.

Last Tuesday, Mary Lou continued: “They will say by voting No we are going to cause an even greater recession and depression . . . This is dishonest and cynical.” Of course it is. We all know, if we are honest and not cynical, that by voting No to Lisbon a second time in successive years it can only benefit this economy of ours. It is the sensible thing to do because, as we know too, our EU colleagues will just love us for it all over again.

Ask them. They’ll soon tell you.

In fact, what Mary Lou should now do is take a flight (economy class) to Iceland and advise our friends there of this. She should tell them that their recent rushed application to join the EU is a major mistake and that it can only damage their economy further, if that is possible. It would be the friendly thing for her to do, don’t you think?

She also said Lisbon threatened our military neutrality. Now we all know that when it comes to matters military Sinn Féin has an enviable record on being actively neutral. It is true for instance that during the Troubles the IRA killed more Catholics than did the UDA. Who could ask for further proof of neutrality on the part of any organisation than that it should kill more of its own?

Then it was Joe Higgins’s turn on Tuesday. He described the Lisbon Treaty as a “profoundly undemocratic” document. Okay, so it has already been approved by 85 per cent of directly elected representatives across the EU, but what do they know about democracy?

They should talk to Joe. He can tell them about democracy. He has been to Cuba.

Sometimes it seems as if Joe and his friends on the outer edges of the left would prefer if Ireland became the Cuba or North Korea of Europe. Yes, we should model ourselves on two of the largest open-air prisons for ordinary people in the world. Then maybe we have been ahead of those countries. Was it not George Bernard Shaw who once described this island as “the largest open-air lunatic asylum in the world”?

We proved that in last year’s Lisbon vote. The lunacy continues, whether it is with ideologues of the left or right, as regards Ireland and the EU and even in the context of a 20th century which proved that in matters of politics and economics the world would have been a far better place had Karl Marx and Milton Friedman spent more time in the pub than the library.

Last Tuesday the CAEUC group also said the electorate was being “threatened, cajoled and lied to” in relation to Lisbon. But who “threatened, cajoled and lied” to the electorate last year? Who said Lisbon would bring euthanasia, abortion, and military conscription to little old Ireland? It was the No campaign. Such honesty! Such refreshing lack of cynicism!

Patsy McGarry is an Irish Timesjournalist; John Waters is on leave

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