So the host was Taoiseach Brian Cowen, who welcomed Nicolas Sarkozy at Government Buildings in Dublin for a conference with selected ministers of his own cabinet. Later Nicolas Sarkozy also met the leaders of the two main opposition parties, Enda Kenny of Fine Gael and Eamon Gilmore of the Labour Party. Despite the fact that both politicians and their parties supported the Lisbon Treaty, they had over the weekend contemplated to snub the French leader, as it was originally planned to give them only a few minutes each with Nicolas Sarkozy.
Besides the three main leaders of the NO campaign, a number of other representatives from the NO camp were present as well. And I have to say that I was rather impressed by the energetic, open and friendly attitude of Nicolas Sarkozy. This was not the French bogeyman, whose mind was set on forcing the Irish into another unpopular vote. Sarkozy came across as a statesman who was willing to listen and learn why Ireland had rejected the Lisbon Treaty.
It is unlikely that in the remaining five months of the French EU presidency a solution can be found, and even more unlikely that there will be another referendum in Ireland on the Lisbon Treaty. Certainly not before the next elections to the European Parliament, due in a year's time.
There might also be a new and more acceptable formula for the voting system in the EU Council.
There were several demonstrations in Dublin yesterday, both in favour of Nicolas Sarkozy and against him and the EU.
A third, and by far the largest demonstration was organised by the Campaign against the EU Constitution (CATEC) on Dublin's Kildare Street, right outside of the Government Buildings.
CATEC, which was very active in the NO campaign, is made up of 15 different groups and organisations, including the Socialist Party and the Peace and Neutrality Alliance. In a news conference their leaders made the clear statement that after rejections by the voters of France, the Netherlands and Ireland the treaty is dead. They said CATEC would "not accept any deals or buy-offs to revive it".
The CATEC demonstration was joined by people from all parts of Ireland who travelled for the day to Dublin to make their point heard and seen by Nicolas Sarkozy and our own politicians. One of the more angry protesters shortened his lunch by throwing two eggs in the direction of Nicolas Sarkozy. Even though he missed the French President, he was immediately lead away by Gardai. But this was the only real "incident" in an otherwise peaceful and well-organised demonstration.
An old friend of mine, Kermit (the frog), who wrote for many years a regular column in Centre Focus, a magazine published by the Council of Trade Unions in Cork, decided to make his point even more visible than most. Dressed appropriately he joined the demonstration and told Nicolas Sarkozy in his usual and poignant way where to go. Despite the well-known French practice of eating frogs' legs, no harm was done to him and while Nicolas Sarkozy returned with deep thoughts to Paris, Kermit is now happily back at the Lough in Cork, where he lives.
And after a long and eventful day (at whose end I was frankly too tired to write this entry right away) I am home again, too. Waterford, for long spells of this 'summer' covered with grey clouds and rather cool, wet and windy, welcomed me with bright and unexpected sunshine. Maybe this is a little omen, a sign that after all the darkness that the Lisbon Treaty was threatening us with, there is new hope on the horizon. For that one has to thank the Irish people, and this we cannot do often enough. However, the struggle for the retention of proper democracy in the EU is far from over. The referendum of June 12th was only the first of many battles. The victory we achieved was great and welcome, but it should not make us complacent. It should wake us up and make us ready for more. Only with good preparation and by keeping up the right spirit will we succeed and keep Europe the homeland of Democracy, the great gift ancient Athens gave to the world.
The Emerald Islander