17 November 2008

More Smoke Screens over the Lisbon Treaty

A new opinion poll suggests that a 'modified version' of the Lisbon Treaty (whatever that might mean, as no 'modifications' have been made yet) would be carried if certain concessions are made to Ireland.

The TNS/mrbi poll, published in today's edition of The Irish Times, asked 1000 people if they would vote YES or NO in another referendum, if the treaty was modified to allow Ireland to retain its permanent EU Commissioner, and if concerns on neutrality, abortion and taxation were clarified in special declarations.

The result of the poll is 43% for YES, 39% for NO, and 19% of those asked said they did not know.

When the 'Don't Knows' are eliminated, the result gives a slightly bigger margin to potential supporters of an amended treaty.

In the referendum in June 53.4% of the Irish people voted to reject the Lisbon Treaty, while 46.6% voted in favour.

Meanwhile the government announced that it will make its decision on whether to hold a second referendum on the Lisbon Treaty before the European Council meeting in December.
Minister for Foreign Affairs Micheál Martin (photo) stated yesterday in an interview with RTÉ that the decision has not been made yet. He said that the government "will bring the 'elements of a solution' to the meeting in Brussels" next month.

Martin said that the government wanted "to restore the goodwill Ireland has built up in the EU over many years", because "this would enable the country to play a part in future decisions".

The Minister added that "doing nothing would leave Ireland at the margins of Europe" (where it is anyway and always has been geographically - I am glad that Martin has noticed eventually).

Well, what does this mean in plain English? Not much, really, except for more smoke screens being put out to confuse us. It only shows that the government has learned absolutely nothing since June and is still treating the Irish people with arrogance, contempt and in a patronising way, as if we were little children.

The Lisbon Treaty was put before the people, they rejected it, and that should be that. It was a fair and democratic decision, with a clear majority. So, which part of the word NO is it the government does not understand?
Or are they really so naive to believe that they could win any democratic vote at all in the foreseeable future, after first creating a crisis (with incompetence and greed) and then trying to make the rest of us to pay for it?

Should the government decide to call a second referendum on an unaltered treaty, it is more than likely that the Irish electorate wll reject it again, no matter what some meaningless opinion poll - conducted with no concrete information about possible changes available - seems to suggest.
In fact, if one takes into account that about 10% of the NO voters in June rejected the treaty because they did not understand it or were uncertain, the figures of this latest TNS/mrbi poll are almost identical with the result of the referendum.

One has to wonder what is the point of having such a poll at this time. Does The Irish Times - in contrast to most of us - have too much money sitting around, which has to be spent before the end of the year?

Neither the EU Commission nor the Irish government have made any changes to the treaty, and for good reasons. They do not have the power to alter the document, even if they might wish to do it.
Should there be any changes proposed, they would need to be approved by the governments of all member states at an EU summit. In case this would happen, the whole process of ratification would have to restart in all 27 countries, not just here in Ireland.
As several of the other governments (who did not dare to hold a referendum, as they knew beforehand they would have lost it as well) had trouble enough to get the treaty through their parliaments - despite strong and vociferous objections from their opposition and public opinion - it is not likely that they want to go through all this again, just to please us stubborn Irish.

No, I cannot see an amended treaty - let's call it Lisbon II (even though it would more likely be agreed on in Brussels, Paris or Prague) - being created to appease the Irish people. More likely will be attempts to hoodwink us into the belief that things have changed, perhaps by separate protocols related to the Lisbon Treaty or statements made by the EU Commission.

Beware traps and trappers! Such declarations might well state a political opinion of the time when they are made, but they are no legal documents, not binding, and would not change the text and matter of the treaty. Should Ireland - the only of the 27 EU countries where the people have a direct vote on such treaties - accept it in a second referendum on the understanding that the EU has added a 'protocol' to it, then we should really abolish Democracy here as well, since it would proof that Irish voters are gullible and brainless, and thus cannot be entrusted with affairs of the State.

But, as we have seen in June, the Irish people are not gullible and brainless!

A second referendum, especially if it were to be held soon, would be a slap in the face for every Irish voter. At a time when the government has reached the lowest approval rates any Irish government has ever had in the history of the State, neither Taoiseach Brian Cowen nor his party can afford another humiliating defeat. Such could easily topple the government, and it probably would. If they should decide on a second referendum, they would only do it if they were certain to win it. No opinion poll can guarantee that.

So what is the real reason for having such a poll now, when the Lisbon Treaty is really no longer on people's minds and the financial crisis, the scandalous budget and the ever more visible incompetence of our government is more than enough to cope with?

I suppose the final answer to that would have to come from Geraldine Kennedy, the editor of The Irish Times. It does not make sense - even for a wealthy newspaper - to waste money on a poll when there is no real public interest in the subject and nothing new to say about it. But still they did it. Why?

Well, I suspect that this is a lot more subtle than it looks at first glance. Most people do not remember that the same Geraldine Kennedy who is now editing The Irish Times has once been a TD for the (now defunct) Progressive Democrats, the most right-wing and destructive party in our political history. But I do remember such details, as they often explain the seemingly inexplicable.

The poll in today's Irish Times is just another smoke screen over the dead Lisbon Treaty, to confuse us and suggest that it could be brought back to life. It is also a friendly test balloon in support of the government, giving the impression that they might still have a second chance if they only 'get things sorted out'. And - surprise, surprise - it coincides with more smoke created yesterday by Micheál Martin, who seems to be quite willing to sell the nation down the river in order to improve his popularity with the EU Commission.

No, Minister, we will not fall for this! The treaty is dead - good bye and good riddens.

Any other suggestion would be a clear assault on the principles of Democracy. This is not like selling soap, where you can ask and ask and ask again, until the customer is tired of your voice and buys some.
So please do us a favour, grow up and accept the facts as they are. It might help you to settle into your new job, which is to represent Ireland and her best interests abroad. So far you have been more a foreign minister of the EU to Ireland than the Irish Minister for Foreign Affairs.

Over the coming weeks we will undoubtedly hear more arguments for a second referendum. That is the way smoke screens work. They blur and distort the vision of an observer and help an enemy to hide or get away. But we are not fooled that easily.

There is absolutely no reason and no justification for a second referendum!

Our position in Europe and inside the EU has not changed since June. Ireland can happily live without the Lisbon Treaty, and so can the rest of Europe. In fact, Europe will be better and more democratic without it.

So I suggest - to Minister Martin, the Irish government and the EU - to forget all about the treaty and instead to get on with the real problems we are facing right now: Economic recession, financial and political instability, and a once again dramatical rise of unemployment.
Do something constructive for the people you are supposed to govern, stop outsourcing almost everything to China and India, get your acts together and - first of all - get a real control of the financial markets which caused much of the current crisis.

When our economies are back on track and we can look forward to a better future, we might perhaps be willing to listen to more arguments about a restructuring of the EU and - maybe - another treaty.

The Emerald Islander

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