by Frank Schnittger
Mon Dec 29th, 2008 at 06:14:47 AM EST
I have been shocked and stunned at the reaction I have received to my last diary on Lisbon. OK, perhaps "Where is your outrage?" wasn't such a clever title for a diary published in Christmas week. But far from eliciting any outrage that groups like Sinn Fein, Libertas and Coir were claiming to speak on behalf of all Europeans concerned at a democratic deficit within the EU, I have been taken to task for all manner of arguments I never made.
Meanwhile, the NO campaign is busily recruiting Vaclav Klaus, Le Pen, British Tory Eurosceptics, US Defence contractors and sundry other European ultra-nationalists and neo-fascists to their cause. What I hadn't expected was that ET commentators also don't seem to mind being aligned with that 'coalition of the unwilling' if it enables them to take revenge on their own Governments for not holding plebiscites in their own countries.
Let me say, just one more time, that I have no problem with Ireland or any other EU member state holding a plebiscite on this issue. I empathise with those who feel their Governments reneged on a promise to hold one. However it is not my role, or Ireland's, or Sinn Fein, Libertas and Coir's, to tell other Sovereign Governments how they should go about ratifying Lisbon or any other Treaty. We have not ceded Sovereignty on our Treaty ratification process and so cannot expect other EU member states to cede Sovereignty on theirs.
However, I would have hoped that our fellow Europeans, regardless of their views on Lisbon or the manner in which it was ratified in their own country, would not have made common cause with the 'coalition of the unwilling' above, if only because they do not support neo-fascist, neo-conservative, religious fundamentalist, or ultra-nationalist parties in their own countries.
I feel Ireland is being used by anti-Lisbon people elsewhere to pursue their agenda when they failed to secure that agenda in their own national or European parliament. And if as a result of this Ireland is marginalised within the EU for blocking Lisbon, or the EU becomes even more ineffectual and moribund in an increasingly unstable world, I don't expect they will come to our aid, at least not in any effective or meaningful way.
Ireland needs the EU more than the EU needs Ireland. We can't allow those within the EU disenchanted with their own Governments to drive a wedge between us and our European partners in Government, Governments which have, moreover, been generally very supportive of the needs of a small, emerging, and conflict stricken country such as the Ireland which joined the Union.
Edmund Burke, the famous Irish political philosopher, once said:
"The only thing necessary for the triumph [of evil] is for good men to do nothing".
So why is it that Ireland is the focus of anti-Lisbon leaders everywhere, and yet pro-Lisbon leaders and activists both here and in the larger European public space do nothing?
Let me also acknowledge, once again, that it is perfectly possible to make a logical, rational case against the merits of Lisbon, the quality of its drafting, or the manner of its adoption. But these are three separate issues, and I am happy to concede the last two. The debate in Ireland was never on Lisbon's merits. Most NO voters in Ireland were happy to acknowledge they had never read it, did not understand it, and thus were susceptible to the dire NO campaign warnings about abortion on demand, conscription into a European army, increased taxation, and enforced secularisation.
That is why it has been so easy for the European Council to give a virtual blank cheque to Ireland for any opt-outs, declarations, or clarifications on these issues: because Lisbon simply isn't about them. The one issue that was relevant to the Treaty - the "loss of Ireland's Commissioner" - was contained in the Nice Treaty in any case, and rests on the fundamental and wilful misunderstanding that Commissioners are there to represent their countries.
And that is also why the European Council's concessions on these issues hasn't changed the fundamental dynamics of the debate in Ireland - which rests almost entirely on the claim by Sinn Fein, Libertas and Coir et al, that Lisbon represents an undemocratic project by a European elite, in contrast to their much greater commitment to a far more democratic Europe.
The audacity of this claim is quite breath taking.
I find it quite incredible that we should be allowing Sinn Fein, Libertas and Coir et al to claim the high moral ground of democratic legitimacy when they have contributed almost nothing positive to Irish democracy, whilst the EU has helped to end the antagonisms of two world wars and the Cold war, has helped to consolidate democracy in formerly Fascist and Communist states, and made a significant contribution to the lessoning of British-Irish tensions in Northern (and southern) Ireland.
Groups and individuals like Sinn Fein, Libertas and Coir have opposed Ireland's accession to the EU and every major Treaty since. In Sinn Fein's case they have long denied the legitimacy of the Irish State and only recently stopped killing Irish citizens, policemen, army personnel and parliamentarians. Libertas has been entirely opaque about its funding, but is headed by a man who is making most of his millions from US Defence contracts. Coir seems to be populated by individuals who feel that their Catholic ethos should take priority over the EU's secular one.
Are these the collective values and the kinds of people we want to see running Ireland and the EU in the future?
I will leave it to readers here to judge whether I have fairly characterised the discussion on Where is your outrage? in the above summary. Obviously there were nuances in the discussion that the summary here does not include.
But my fundamental request to you is this: Please do not translate any misgivings or anger you may have about Lisbon or the manner of its ratification in your country into tacit or active support for the NO campaign in Ireland. It isn't about you or your disenchantment with your own Government. It is about an organised attempt to roll back the overwhelmingly positive influence the EU has had on our political culture, our social legislation, and on our economic development, and to return us to a narrow catholic nationalism and an EU made up of Sovereign states with much reduced social cohesion, economic integration, or political unity between previously warring nation states.
The EU has many problems and imperfections, but we seem to take its positive achievements for granted. We won't fully appreciate it until Ireland has been marginalised or the development of the EU has been stalled and put into reverse. And then it will be too late. Clearly the primary responsibility for preventing this happening rests with Irish people themselves. However it would be nice if we didn't have to fight just domestic nationalists and neo-fascists, but also Tory Eurosceptics, US funded Neo-cons, Le Pen, Vaclav Klaus, and sundry European ultra-nationalists and neo-fascists as well - whilst those who have helped build up the EU to what it is now sit mutely on the sidelines or use the Irish situation to vent their spleen at their own Governments.
So once again, my request to you as citizens of the EU and of our fellow EU Member states is that you sharpen your minds and your fingers and write to the editors of:
Irish Times firstname.lastname@example.org
Irish Independent email@example.com
Sunday Business Post firstname.lastname@example.org
Sunday Tribune email@example.com
Stating that even though you are angry at your own Government for denying you a vote on Lisbon, you do not support the claim by the Irish NO campaign to speak on your behalf and advise the Irish people to vote on the Lisbon Treaty on its merits and not on some misguided belief that a no vote will somehow usher in a period of greater democratic accountability within Europe as a whole or within your own country.