Voters should reject treaty because it is not democratic


Lisbon entails handing over to our masters in Brussels responsibility for things they do not want us to understand, writes BRENDAN OGLE.

'Public opinion will be led to adopt, without knowing it, the proposals that we dare not present to them directly . . . All the earlier proposals will be in the new text, but will be hidden and disguised in some way . . . What was (already) difficult to understand will become utterly incomprehensible, but the substance has been retained."

So spoke former French president Valéry Giscard d'Estaing who headed the committee which drafted the failed European Constitution and which has now been disguised and is being presented to Irish voters in the form of the European Reform - or Lisbon - Treaty. Don't you just love it when politicians are honest?

Here's another example, this time from Belgian foreign minister Karel de Gucht. "The aim of this treaty," he said, "is to be unreadable . . . the constitution aimed to be clear, whereas this treaty had to be unclear . . . It is a success."

It most certainly is. The presentation of this treaty, and what passes for a ratification process, is inherently anti-democratic and should be rejected for that reason alone.

Such a decision taken by the Irish people will not damage our position at the European table. In fact, it will force those who we elect to serve us at national and European level to present us with proposals for necessary reforms in an honest and transparent way. There is nothing honest or transparent about the current proposals.

This treaty began its life as a European constitution to be approved by the people of Europe in an open and democratic manner, ie by a series of referendums in member states. The Danish and the Spanish approved the constitution but, in May 2005, the French (hardly a nation renowned for being Eurosceptics) rejected it by 55 per cent in a referendum with a 70 per cent turnout. The next day an even bigger majority of Dutch voters, 62 per cent, similarly rejected the constitution. The response of Brussels was to repackage the constitution in the form of a treaty, thereby dispensing with the awkward business of giving the people of Europe a say in the structures that will shape all of our futures at European level into the future.

Except that is in Ireland, where we will be asked effectively to endorse a repackaged constitution on which 400 million citizens of Europe are being systematically denied a vote.

That's quite a responsibility isn't it? Not surprisingly, voters will not be provided with a copy of the text upon which they will be asked to vote. Apart from the fact that it wouldn't fit in your post box in any event, I suspect there is the very rational fear that if voters actually look at the document they will realise that they are being asked to hand over to our masters in Brussels total control over matters that Brussels does not want us to understand.

Just one example. As a citizen, I believe that if we had a universal healthcare system free at the point of use, with no private healthcare provision, we would have a very good system. This is because I believe if the richest in our society had to endure the same health system as the poorest, then they would ensure it was a very good system from which we would all benefit.

Any government espousing such a policy, maybe following a mandate from its electorate, would be guilty of "distorting the market" and such "distortions" are prohibited under the treaty.

Surely these are matters that we should be debating fully. Instead, we get our elected political leaders in all parties, except Sinn Féin, telling us that if we don't endorse this treaty we will be in some way damaged at European level. Somehow I think I'll be voting No.

Brendan Ogle is a regional organiser with the trade union Unite/ATGWU.