Madam, - Fintan O'Toole's column of July 1st, drawing together Bertie Ahern's new office furnishings and the seven-year jail sentence imposed on a long-time drug-user, is a stark reminder that the eventual outcome of the Lisbon Treaty referendum may not be all that important for Irish society. Our present state is due far more to our own social and political decisions, and our political apathy, than to any diktat of the European Union.
In the referendum, No campaigners warned that our tax regime would be changed to suit the needs of the big four - Germany, France, Britain and Italy - and that Irish taxpayers would suffer accordingly. But it was Irish banks and builders, aided and abetted by our own political system, that created the grossly imbalanced economy which is now tottering into recession. We were warned against becoming an economic minnow in a European super-state, but we have long since voluntarily become an economic dependency of the United States and are now painfully at the mercy of US investment decisions. No campaigners also warned against the lack of accountability at the heart of "Super Europe". But here at home we have had 10 years of tribunals investigating corruption and other crimes and all we got was a platform for apparent perjury and plutocratic amnesia. Charlie Haughey prostituted our political system and was rewarded with a State funeral. Only one politician, and not even one shady businessman, went to jail - yet our prisons are full of petty offenders and fine-defaulters.
No campaigners warned against the loss of our cherished neutrality, the militarisation of Europe and the spectre of our young people being conscripted into an EU army. Yet for several years, the Irish electorate has tolerated the use of Shannon Airport to support the illegal, immoral and ultimately futile US invasion and occupation of Iraq. And for 30 years the Irish public remained largely silent in the face of an un-mandated war waged by Sinn Féin/IRA, all allegedly in the name of our Republic. A peculiarly Irish concept of "neutrality".
No campaigners warned against the importation of promiscuity, prostitution, euthanasia, etc, if Lisbon was ratified. But it wasn't "godless Europe" that imported the very high level of child sexual abuse that has been prevalent for generations, nor the alarming levels of elder abuse which have recently been highlighted.
No campaigners warned against Ireland losing its "sovereignty" in a new EU super-state and the concentration of power in an unelected Brussels bureaucracy. But it wasn't the EU that over the past several general elections has created a de facto one-party state, with little or no prospect of dislodging Fianna Fáil from permanent power. It was our own electorate - and recent opinion polls indicate on-going support for this arrangement.
No campaigners warned against our "national identity" being swallowed up in a gigantic super-state. Our identity in the Irish Republic used to be, by and large, Catholic, nationalist, GAA-playing, Gaelic-loving (but not speaking!), monogamist, sexually conservative. It wasn't a godless Europe that eroded these core values: we voluntarily and very rapidly gave them up to become fans of "European" soccer stars, Spice Girls and Sugababes of various flavours, Boyzlife and Westzone, Hathy Yoga, Tarot Cards, Hello magazine - you name it! Our "identity" is now truly catholic in the original sense of the word.
And so it goes. It's high time for Irish voters to realise that much, if not most, of our destiny still lies in our own hands. - Yours, etc,
Madam, -- I am mystified by The Irish Times's continued support of the Lisbon Treaty, as I am by the apparent acceptance of President Sarkozy's intent to "resolve" the Irish problem.
There is no problem. The Irish people looked at a treaty that was unreadable and unread by many of those who supported it - this in a context where the common citizen is seeing widespread, profound and uniformly negative effects from the Nice Treaty - and they very rationally voted No.
The absurd reiteration that Ireland is the "only" country to balk is simply a product of the fact that it is the only country where the people had the right to a say. Had the other EU countries had the opportunity, without doubt the Irish would not be alone in their response.
Far from this being an Irish "problem" needing resolution, this is a moment where Ireland has raised a vital question on whose interests the EU is to serve. Sarkozy's reaction gives a very perturbing indication of the answer to that question. - Yours, etc,