Madam, - I hope the following scenario can and will be avoided, but just now I can't see how.
It now seems inevitable that the Conservatives will win the next general election in Britain and that the UK will then withdraw from the core project of the European Union.
William Hague, the Conservatives' spokesman on foreign affairs, confirmed as much to your readers in his article of July 26th: "If Lisbon remains unratified by all EU member states, a Conservative government will put Britain's ratification of the treaty on ice and hold a referendum, recommending a No vote.".
The third inevitability (at least from the evidence to date) is that Ireland will not have resolved its Lisbon dilemma before the next British election.
And the fourth seeming inevitability is that Paris and Berlin and their allies will not waver from their determined path. In reality it will be Tory Britain that will push herself out.
It is hard to imagine that, in this set of circumstances, we post-No Irish would have any choice but to hunker down in the new "second tier", playing third fiddle, not to the EU Mark II, but rather to our old mistress, who will dominate a revived EFTA Mark II and in practice negotiate on its behalf with the future EU. This may not be much noticed outside our shores in the din caused by the "departure" of Britain from the EU.
Some will welcome this dispensation as a liberation from the imagined "fascism" and "militarism" of the future European Union. Some will be relieved to be back "where we belong". Some will see it as an opportunity to impose their agenda of victimhood and nihilism on our politics. Many will simply sleepwalk through the events. Others will regret a tragic loss of Irish independence.
I had the privilege of working as a civil servant between 1966 and 1988. The overriding memory many citizens retain of those pre-Celtic Tiger years was how Ireland's energetic membership of the Community transformed and enhanced Irish independence. In 1973 we ignored the accusations of national treason and enthusiastically gave up a substantial measure of sovereignty to join the European Community. Before then Irish independence had been measured and defined, whether constitutionally, politically or economically, only by reference to our suffocating relationship with Britain.
The change in 1973 was volcanic. Government Ministers, TDs of most parties, trade union leaders and members, entrepreneurs, students, journalists, farm leaders and ordinary farmers, as well as officials like myself, were challenged in their hundreds of thousands by the complexities and opportunities of the Community. We responded with a refreshing enthusiasm which astonished the Commission and the European Community at large and even ourselves. There was no more asking: What did or what would the British do? Rather: Where is our interest here and what is the way to win? So our people and our officials mastered the arts of lobbying and indefatigable negotiation, skills that came into their own when the Celtic Tiger began to roar. We discovered that we were after all an independent people, masters of our destiny, and neither ashamed nor reluctant to create prosperity.
In a happy paradox, the new freedom that we won through energetic participation in the European Community and Union served us crucially in a series of difficult negotiations with Britain over Northern Ireland.
It is depressing to foresee the scenario I outlined earlier unfolding with seemingly fatal inevitability. It will - incredibly but inevitably - return us to the dependent status we broke from in 1973. It is depressing to see our future as a subsidiary to Mr Hague's vision of Little England. The poet would urge:"Muscail do mhisneach, a Bhanba". Or, as a former Irish rugby captain put it to his team: "Where's your *** pride, Ireland?" - Yours, etc,
MICHAEL LILLIS, Dartmouth Square, Dublin 6.
Whether we like it or not, Ireland doesn't have a veto on the future development of the EU. Ironically it is the Nice Treaty's provisions for "Enhanced Cooperation" which provide the basis for a two tier, two speed Union.
Ireland will remain, with Britain, in the almost empty shell of the "Nice EU" whilst the "Lisbon EU" will expand with Croatia as the first new entrant. Perhaps Croatia deserves the full benefits of the EU more than us. They certainly seem to appreciate it more.