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What No really means for Ireland

by Frank Schnittger Tue Aug 19th, 2008 at 03:55:39 AM EST

Michael Lillis once ran the Anglo-Irish section of the Department of Foreign and was a central player in the British Irish peace process.  As heavyweight civil servants go, they don't come much heavier.  Now retired, he has written a Letter to the Editor (below the fold) outlining the consequences, as he sees them, of the Irish No vote in the Lisbon Treaty Referendum.

Basically he sees the Irish No vote as giving the next (Conservative) British Government the opportunity to scupper the Lisbon project altogether.  The rest of the EU will carry on regardless leaving Ireland, trailing in Britain's wake, in a second tier arrangement almost wholly dependent on Britain once again.

"Where's your f*cking pride" he asks the Irish people.  We were more independent as full members of the EU than we ever were.  Do we want to go back to a form of neo-colonial dependency?  

No vote campaigners are still in denial that the No vote means anything other than the maintenance of the status quo - as if the democratically elected Governments of 25 countries are going to allow a small island to halt the further enlargement and development of the EU. Many would be glad to be rid of the UK in any case, and Ireland will be lost in its wake.

They have been kind enough to grant us a period of reflection, but do we really think they are going to stop the world for us indefinitely?

Excellent LTE below the fold - afew


The Lisbon Treaty dilemma - The Irish Times - Thu, Aug 14, 2008

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.

Display:
A depressingly likely scenario, though I do wonder why we'd be obliged to follow the UK?
by Colman (colman at eurotrib.com) on Fri Aug 15th, 2008 at 05:45:26 AM EST
The other choices being?

You can't be me, I'm taken
by Sven Triloqvist on Fri Aug 15th, 2008 at 05:50:16 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Say "to hell with them" and proceed with the rest of the EU?
by Colman (colman at eurotrib.com) on Fri Aug 15th, 2008 at 05:55:30 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Our problem now, isn't the UK.  It's our own naysayers, uber catholics, nihilists, nationalists, "republicans" and "socialists" who somehow believe that the EU is a capitalist/secularist/foreign/elitist/globalist (delete as appropriate) plot to steal Ireland's independence/virtue/national identity.

They were always there, of course, but always in a minority.  Now they have won a famous victory and can claim to have democracy on their side as well.  All those who don't take an active interest in politics/economics etc. (the majority) will now likely side with them if another referendum is called - out of sheer resentment at being asked twice.

We have create a real problem for ourselves - and only we can dig ourselves out of this hole.

It's time I got out of this game....

by Frank Schnittger (mail Frankschnittger at hot male dotty communists) on Fri Aug 15th, 2008 at 06:21:08 AM EST
[ Parent ]
It's our own naysayers, uber catholics, nihilists, nationalists, "republicans" and "socialists" who somehow believe that the EU is a capitalist/secularist/foreign/elitist/globalist (delete as appropriate) plot to steal Ireland's independence/virtue/national identity.

Welcome to Sweden. You'll find it's pretty much the same here.

You can also add "neoliberal" and "militarist". Those are seen by the Swedish left as the two primary characteristics of the EU.

Peak oil is not an energy crisis. It is a liquid fuel crisis.

by Starvid on Tue Aug 19th, 2008 at 08:33:01 AM EST
[ Parent ]
How can that happen when the constitution demands ratification by referendum, and even the notion of voting again (forget Sarkozy for the moment) is considered quasi-treasonous?
by afew (afew(a in a circle)eurotrib_dot_com) on Fri Aug 15th, 2008 at 07:19:41 AM EST
[ Parent ]
The Irish Parliament has the authority to ratify all international Treaties.  However such Legislation is open to constitutional challenge to the Supreme Court.  To pre-empt this there has been a practice of holding a "catch-all" referendum to formally incorporate a Treaty into the constitution.

If the Dail did ratify Lisbon it could be referred directly to the Supreme Court by the President prior to signature.  The Supreme Court might find a very specif aspect unconstitutional which would then only require a referendum on that very specific aspect - circumventing all the spurious issues that arose in the campaign.

The ojection to holding a second referendum on the same text is political, not constitutional.

It's time I got out of this game....

by Frank Schnittger (mail Frankschnittger at hot male dotty communists) on Fri Aug 15th, 2008 at 07:24:56 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Yes, I understand the final point.

But on the same political grounds, what government could take the risk of parliamentary ratification now? (Bar a government that was inspired by Lillis's historical vision and capable of communicating it to the Irish).

I suppose Colman could say the Irish government could join "Enhanced Cooperation" measures under the Nice Treaty. But, there again, the political risks would be very high.

by afew (afew(a in a circle)eurotrib_dot_com) on Fri Aug 15th, 2008 at 07:35:51 AM EST
[ Parent ]
The political correspondent of the Irish times suggested the parliamentary route and there has been a lot of adverse reaction on the letters page - going against the will of the people etc.  I think it would be politically v. difficult for any Government to do so now - although, perhaps, that is the way it should have been done in the first place.

The most likely resolution is still a series of protocols explicitly addressing all the non-issues which arose - neutrality, abortion, European army etc. - and perhaps a Treaty amendment on the One Commissioner per country issue - which probably wouldn't be a problem for our partners although it would require a ratification of the change on their part.  The Government could then claim that the Treaty has been amended to take account of the issues raised in the first referendum.

The other issues are timing and turnout.  Having the referendum at the same time as the EU Parliament elections next June seems to me the ideal date.  People could still take out their anti-Government anger by voting for opposition candidates in the election - whilst voting with their heads on the Treaty.  Turnout would be even higher making it harder for the No camp to win.

It's time I got out of this game....

by Frank Schnittger (mail Frankschnittger at hot male dotty communists) on Fri Aug 15th, 2008 at 01:16:42 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I haven't the faintest how this could be achieved, but greater business and political connections with the Nordics (including your old monastic partner Iceland) would be  a start.

I've always thought that there is much in common between Ireland (and Scotland) and the Nordic countries - and yet I have met few Irish business people in Finland or Sweden, on my perambulations.

You can't be me, I'm taken

by Sven Triloqvist on Fri Aug 15th, 2008 at 07:42:23 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Nah, we had enough of you lot when you came over as Vikings and we kicked your ass at the battle of Clontarf.  I've just come back from Glendalough which was one of the monasteries you looted.  Come to think of it, we never got reparations....

It's time I got out of this game....
by Frank Schnittger (mail Frankschnittger at hot male dotty communists) on Fri Aug 15th, 2008 at 01:20:22 PM EST
[ Parent ]
We agreed to let you into the secret of peat. I thought we were quits after that.

You can't be me, I'm taken
by Sven Triloqvist on Fri Aug 15th, 2008 at 02:49:44 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Sven Triloqvist:
We agreed to let you into the secret of peat. I thought we were quits after that.

The secret of Peat? You mean to destroy non-renewable resources?  What a load of bogwash!

It's time I got out of this game....

by Frank Schnittger (mail Frankschnittger at hot male dotty communists) on Sat Aug 16th, 2008 at 07:36:15 AM EST
[ Parent ]
That's the beauty of it. We consider peat a renewable resource. ;)

I mean, yes, we really do.

Peak oil is not an energy crisis. It is a liquid fuel crisis.

by Starvid on Tue Aug 19th, 2008 at 08:34:55 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Well it does grow at the rate of about 5mm per century - so only about 100,000 years to go and our bogs could be regenerated!

It's time I got out of this game....
by Frank Schnittger (mail Frankschnittger at hot male dotty communists) on Tue Aug 19th, 2008 at 08:45:41 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Tell me about Schengen again..?

A vivid image of what should exist acts as a surrogate for reality. Pursuit of the image then prevents pursuit of the reality -- John K. Galbraith
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Sat Aug 16th, 2008 at 05:03:52 AM EST
[ Parent ]
The British are already planning to break the free-travel zone, so that becomes moot.
by Colman (colman at eurotrib.com) on Sat Aug 16th, 2008 at 05:58:48 AM EST
[ Parent ]
With the Tories morphing form a Unionist to a Little-Englander party they might end up breaking the United Kingdom, wouldn't that be fun?

A vivid image of what should exist acts as a surrogate for reality. Pursuit of the image then prevents pursuit of the reality -- John K. Galbraith
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Sat Aug 16th, 2008 at 05:02:32 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I can see Scotland voting for independence once Brown/Labour gets humiliated at the next election.  N.Ireland is drifting apart anyway, but it will take a long time for it to crystallize into a new constitutional arrangement.  However if the UK were to leave the EU whilst Ireland stayed in.....

It's time I got out of this game....
by Frank Schnittger (mail Frankschnittger at hot male dotty communists) on Sat Aug 16th, 2008 at 09:09:04 PM EST
[ Parent ]
How realistic are those fears? What could the UK possibly have to gain by further marginalising themselves in the EU? If the answer is "nothing much," then the Tory bluster is probably just that.

There is, of course, theoretically the possibility that the rest of the Union would tire of the UK and attempt to marginalise the UK, but airing the dirty laundry in such a spectacular fashion would be a major loss of prestige for the Union as a whole, so how likely is it, really?

- Jake

Austerity can only be implemented in the shadow of a concentration camp.

by JakeS (JangoSierra 'at' gmail 'dot' com) on Mon Aug 25th, 2008 at 07:06:07 AM EST
Of course, the prestige argument cuts both ways - the Irish government has probably lost quite a bit of political capital with its colleagues in Bruxelles on account of putting up such a spectacularly lousy campaign.

I think that's the real problem for Ireland in the whole Lisbon issue: Ireland has probably lost substantial political capital for very little real gain.

But of course, that's harder to explain without sounding like Ireland is being bullied...

- Jake

Austerity can only be implemented in the shadow of a concentration camp.

by JakeS (JangoSierra 'at' gmail 'dot' com) on Mon Aug 25th, 2008 at 07:09:00 AM EST
[ Parent ]
The Irish used to take great pride in punching above their weight in Europe and generally received a very sympathetic response.  That is why senior Civil Servants of my acquaintance - experienced in EU negotiations - were absolutely apoplectic and the NO result.

The concept of "political capital" is only dimly understood by the electorate at large.  You don't know what it is until it becomes clear you no longer have it - and at that stage it is far too late to repair the damage.

I still believe the only way out is for Ireland to have a second referendum in June - at the same as the EU Parliament elections, but Cowen has a lot of explaining to do to the electorate if it is to have a realistic chance of success.  It would be helpful, also, if the rest of the EU became clearer in what it would do if Lisbon were rejected again.  To hell with charges of bullying.  Every member is entitled to take their own position on this and to make it clear to the Irish Electorate.  We ARE in a political UNION now, after all - and perhaps its time the petty nationalists were apprised of precisely where we all stood in the event of a second no vote.

Vote McCain for war without gain

by Frank Schnittger (mail Frankschnittger at hot male dotty communists) on Mon Aug 25th, 2008 at 07:26:11 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I think the Tories are serious about having a referendum on Lisbon - they would lose too much credibility in not having one now - having based so much of their political capital on opposing the Brussels bureaucrats.  It also feeds into popular and inane ill-informed prejudice against all the EU.

Having said all that, the attitude of "the City" could change very quickly if they lost their position as a major world centre of Financial Services because of their isolation from the Euro - So they Tories might go for a Thatcher like renegotiation strategy of the terms of membership strategy.

I think they would receive a pretty resounding no from the rest of old Europe to that - who now see the UK as a trojan horse for the US and attempts to revive the Cold War.  A De Gaulle like "Non" would be the most likely response - which would leave the Tories in a very hard place between their xenophobic supporters and their City financiers.

Vote McCain for war without gain

by Frank Schnittger (mail Frankschnittger at hot male dotty communists) on Mon Aug 25th, 2008 at 07:19:08 AM EST
[ Parent ]
But a referendum on Lisbon is "free" for the Brits, so to speak.

If the result is a YES, then this can be used to justify not having a second referendum on the "new and improved Lisbon" that you predict (essentially Lisbon plus extra commissioners plus some meaningless protocols assuring jittery Irish nationalists that the treaty doesn't cover things that it does not, in fact, cover).

If the result is a NO, then the whole thing can be quietly swept under the carpet when the "new and improved Lisbon" is proposed, because that is an completely new treaty, which is - like - totally different. If that cover story doesn't hold up, they can always have a second referendum and recommend a YES.

Of course, if that fails as well, then they'll be caught between a rock and a hard place... But that's at least two years in the future and the elections are now.

- Jake

Austerity can only be implemented in the shadow of a concentration camp.

by JakeS (JangoSierra 'at' gmail 'dot' com) on Mon Aug 25th, 2008 at 07:47:13 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I can't see old Europe waiting beyond next June for a resolution on this - either with Ireland approving Lisbon (probably with amendment/additions as you suggest) or a plan B two speed Europe as I fear.  By the time the Tories get into power the issue will have been settled - something that would probably suit Cameron/Tories very well as well.  It will give them a stick to beat Labour with, without having to do anything difficult or dramatic once in office.

Vote McCain for war without gain
by Frank Schnittger (mail Frankschnittger at hot male dotty communists) on Mon Aug 25th, 2008 at 08:05:48 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Minister Dick Roche's call for a re-run of the Lisbon referendum risks inflaming anti-EU sentiment in Ireland still further as it underlines the perceived "elitist" and "undemocratic" nature of the European project in the eyes of many NO voters.  These could well be joined by many YES voters from the last referendum if an increasingly embattled and unpopular Government is not seen to have dealt with the issues arising from the last referendum effectively.

These issues include, at a minimum:

  1. An amendment to the Treaty enabling the restoration of a permanent EU Commissioner from each member state

  2. A series of protocols clarifying the impact, if any, of the Treaty on Ireland's neutrality, commitments to joint EU defence and security cooperation, social/moral legislation such as abortion and civil partnerships, and the concerns on religious freedom as expressed by Cardinal Brady

  3. A road map to address the perceived "democratic deficit" within the EU, including increased powers for the directly elected European Parliament and a clarification of the role of the new post of President of the European Council as defined in the Treaty.

  4. If necessary, the Government should seek an authoritative ruling from the Supreme Court as to precisely which aspects of the Lisbon Treaty change our Constitution and thus require ratification by Referendum - so that all the disinformation, confusion, and lack of clarity which characterised the last Referendum can be resolved once and for all.

The people deserve to be given a clear choice, not some lengthy, complex, woolly and confusing document that is capable of multiple interpretations.  Let the highest Constitutional authority in the land - the Supreme Court - clarify precisely what impact the Treaty has on our Constitution, and then let the people decide whether they want it or not.



Vote McCain for war without gain
by Frank Schnittger (mail Frankschnittger at hot male dotty communists) on Tue Aug 26th, 2008 at 06:39:39 AM EST
You're cheating by repeating your conclusion as issue #4, but that's okay...

A vivid image of what should exist acts as a surrogate for reality. Pursuit of the image then prevents pursuit of the reality -- John K. Galbraith
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Tue Aug 26th, 2008 at 07:05:48 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I felt issue for needed some amplification, as it is actually very controversial.  It would require the Government to legisate for Lisbon and ask the President to refer the Bill to the Supreme Court prior to signature.

This would open the Government to accusations of trying to bypass the Referendum vote - it would have to be very explicit that the purpose of the exercise is to give the people a clearer choice, not to bypass them.  Dick Roche is always in danger of putting his foot in it - we actually need a much more articulate/sympathetic Minister for European Affairs.

I'm surprised you're not more critical!  The letter isn't really aimed at an ET audience, but at potential "swing voters" - so it repeats a lot of misperceptions without endorsing them

Vote McCain for war without gain

by Frank Schnittger (mail Frankschnittger at hot male dotty communists) on Tue Aug 26th, 2008 at 07:31:52 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I'm surprised you're not more critical!  The letter isn't really aimed at an ET audience, but at potential "swing voters"

So why are you surprised?

A vivid image of what should exist acts as a surrogate for reality. Pursuit of the image then prevents pursuit of the reality -- John K. Galbraith

by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Tue Aug 26th, 2008 at 08:31:47 AM EST
[ Parent ]
you're not a swing voter!!!

Vote McCain for war without gain
by Frank Schnittger (mail Frankschnittger at hot male dotty communists) on Tue Aug 26th, 2008 at 08:32:30 AM EST
[ Parent ]
But a Draft LTE should be critiqued with the intended audience in mind...

Spoiling for a fight, aren't you?

A vivid image of what should exist acts as a surrogate for reality. Pursuit of the image then prevents pursuit of the reality -- John K. Galbraith

by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Tue Aug 26th, 2008 at 08:33:29 AM EST
[ Parent ]
with you?  NEVER

Vote McCain for war without gain
by Frank Schnittger (mail Frankschnittger at hot male dotty communists) on Tue Aug 26th, 2008 at 08:34:13 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Minister admits we need new Lisbon poll - National News, Frontpage - Independent.ie
EUROPEAN Affairs Minister Dick Roche raised the prospect of a second Lisbon Treaty referendum last night, saying he believes it is "the appropriate response" to the country's continuing political crisis.

Mr Roche's controversial comments, in an interview with the Irish Independent, came as the Catholic Primate of All Ireland yesterday voiced fears that some Christians had voted against the treaty because the EU was becoming ever more secular in its outlook.

Mr Roche said: "My personal view is that a referendum is the appropriate response to the position we are in. This is very much a personal view at this stage."

He added: "If we want to retain our position as a constructive EU member state, we cannot simply sit on our hands, as some would have us do, and keep saying that 'No' means 'No'."



"Dieu se rit des hommes qui se plaignent des conséquences alors qu'ils en chérissent les causes" Jacques-Bénigne Bossuet
by Melanchthon on Tue Aug 26th, 2008 at 07:28:04 AM EST
He's my local member of Parliament, but also an idiot for saying this at this stage.  The Government has undertaken a research exercise to ascertain the exact reasons for the no vote and promised to come up with a new approach/proposal afterwards.  It has to be presented as a new approach/proposal or else people will get very annoyed at being asked the same question twice.  Personally I would move the man to another portfolio and appoint a younger more sympathetic figure to the job - someone who can make people see the EU project in a new light - unfortunately no established politician comes to mind....

Vote McCain for war without gain
by Frank Schnittger (mail Frankschnittger at hot male dotty communists) on Tue Aug 26th, 2008 at 07:37:33 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Give Lisbon to Supreme Court - Letters, Opinion - Independent.ie
Minister Dick Roche's call for a re-run of the Lisbon referendum risks inflaming anti-EU sentiment in Ireland still further, as it underlines the perceived elitist and undemocratic nature of the European project in the eyes of many 'No' voters.

These could well be joined by many 'Yes' voters from the last referendum if an increasingly embattled and unpopular government is not seen to have dealt with the issues arising from the last vote effectively.

These issues include:

1. An amendment to the treaty enabling the restoration of a permanent EU Commissioner from each member state.

2. A series of protocols clarifying the impact, if any, of the treaty on Ireland's neutrality, commitments to joint EU defence and security cooperation, social/moral legislation such as abortion and civil partnerships, and the concerns on religious freedom as expressed by Cardinal Brady.

3. A further road map to address the perceived "democratic deficit" within the EU, including increased powers for the directly elected European Parliament and a clarification of the role of the new post of President of the European Council as defined in the treaty.

4. If necessary, the Government should seek an authoritative ruling from the Supreme Court as to precisely which aspects of the Lisbon Treaty change our Constitution, and thus require ratification by referendum -- so that all the disinformation, confusion and lack of clarity which characterised the last referendum can be resolved. The people deserve to be given a clear choice, not some woolly and confusing document capable of multiple interpretations.

Let the highest Constitutional authority in the land -- the Supreme Court -- clarify precisely what impact the treaty has on our Constitution, and then let the people decide whether they want it or not.

FRANK SCHNITTGER



Vote McCain for war without gain
by Frank Schnittger (mail Frankschnittger at hot male dotty communists) on Wed Aug 27th, 2008 at 08:36:54 PM EST


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