Here’s the thing. Libertas is identified as being essentially an anti Lisbon treaty party. But if the treaty is ratified in October, which is quite possible, it means that Libertas’s core objective will be off the table. So what will Libertas MEPs actually do?
Nobody is quite sure. Libertas has been quite sketchy other than to campaign on a vague “Clean up Brussels” platform. This is unusual when one considers that the Standards in Public Office Commission on March 12th said that Libertas, “despite a number of written and telephone reminders…has failed to provide the required information” with regard to campaign spending. Hmm. A question of kettles pointing fingers at pots with regard to pigment, I wonder?
Seven weeks to polling day and there’s still so sign of a Libertas manifesto. No sign of anyone else’s manifesto either, true, but this is a new party, so one would think they would be eager to communicate what it is they are actually running for. I guess voters will have to go on the public statements of Libertas candidates. Caroline Simons, their Dublin candidate, has appeared as a representative of the Pro Life Campaign (See here), and Declan Ganley is on record as opposing same-sex marriage, embryonic stem cell research, euthanasia and abortion. In fact, Ganley has spoken about how his Catholic faith is very important to him. Is it unreasonable to presume it would affect his decisions as a party leader? (Here)
To be fair, there is nothing particularly radical about these positions, most of which are probably held by FF and FG candidates too. What’s disturbing is that Libertas without Lisbon is a de facto conservative Catholic right wing party. Are there votes in that position? Almost certainly, as the SPUC/Youth Defence crowd have no current political home. My fear is that post Lisbon Libertas will become the effective home of the John Charles McQuaid Bring Back The 19th Century crowd.
What happens when Libertas MEPs start to vote against, say, EU funding of Parkinson’s Disease research because it conflicts with the (Perfectly legitimate) Catholic beliefs of its Irish leadership?
Or vote to block, as the US did under the Christian Right supported Bush Administration, the provision of condoms as an anti-AIDs measure in Africa, because it conflicts with Catholic thinking?
Is that what a vote for Libertas is for? The fact that Libertas don’t seem to be standing against Kathy Sinnott, whom they see as a fellow traveller and has opposed euthanasia (Ominously, and to be honest, bizarrely, linking debate on Euthanasia with budget cutbacks! Here), abortion, and embryonic stem cell research could be seen to indicate how important Catholic teaching is seen inside Libertas.
Will these Catholic beliefs apply to Libertas candidates in the UK or the Netherlands? Are they expected to row in behind Ganley on them? Or will Libertas post-Lisbon just fall apart under the weight of its own internal contradictions? I’m only speculating, but until Libertas comes clear with a comprehensive statement of its policy positions, we can only go on the statements of its candidates.