The National Forum on Europe: They tried, God love them.
I was, for a short time, a substitute member of the National Forum on Europe for the PDs, and let us be honest: It never really achieved much of what it set out to do. Basically, it was organised along Dail lines, which involved a load of nicely expensed county councillors telling each other how good the EU was, for the few bob, a nice lunch, and a pleasant chat with the Hungarian minister for Gout Relief.
When the eurosceptics did get to speak, their lines were as loopy as the pro-Europeans were trite. Real debate was not its thing, although I do remember the hairs on Joe Higgins’s neck stand up when John Bruton accused him of effectively (By opposing the EU) wanting to hand over the world to “the yanks”, which was fun.
And yet: Whenever I went abroad to other EU countries, they used to snap up the NFE’s publications because they were genuinely readable. I remember Dutch, French and Czech politicians queueing up at an ELDR conference to get copies of the NFE’s guide to the European Constitution, because it was written for actual human beings to read.
The truth is, it did actually make a genuine effort to communicate to the public about the EU, only the public didn’t care, preferring instead to bitch about how “there’s no information” when what they really meant was “I’m not reading that if Karry Katona’s not in it”. and so the media didn’t bother. If only we’d figured out a way of delivering it in tablet form.
One interesting thing: For some reason or another, Fine Gael had had one of their hissy fits (Jupiter was in line with Venus, or somesuch) and did not sit at the forum when it first started, and it gave a picture of Irish politics without FG, with Labour as the main foil to FF. It worked.