Jason OMahony - Irish political blogger, Irish politics, EU politics
 

What is a Libertas vote actually for?

Posted by Jason O on Apr 27, 2009 in Irish Politics, Lisbon Treaty |

Declan Ganley: A Catholic iceberg beneath a Lisbon tip?

Declan Ganley: A Catholic iceberg beneath a Lisbon tip?

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.   

 

5 Comments

Libertas fan
Apr 27, 2009 at 8:18 am

First things first, Libertas complied fully with all requests from SIPO, they submitted all documentation requested on the same date this year as political parties have done on previous years. A few days ago on Today with Pat Kenny, after contacting SIPO, Pat read out a statement from SIPO which confirmed that all requested documentation was received.

As for the other issues you raise, which are valid ones (excuse my surprise, but valid concerns are not something one encounters often when discussing Libertas, so thanks for actually engaging in reasonable debate).

At about 2pm today Libertas will be launching in Sweden which will bring the current number of Libertas candidates to about 150. If all of those were elected it would only represent 1/5 of the parliament’s seats. While this is a large number to be sure it’s not a majority.

Now, assuming what you say above is the case, such a bloc of votes would not necessarily allow for the blocking of EU funding of Parkinson’s Disease research, for instance. But what it may be is raise the level of debate as to the validity and necessity for funding such research, the type of research which is done (say, for instance, using EU finding to further advances in somatic stem cell research – for instance this http://www.nature.com/stemcells/2008/0810/081030/full/stemcells.2008.142.html or this http://www.ctv.ca/servlet/ArticleNews/story/CTVNews/20090227/stem_cells_090228/20090301?hub=TopStories advances made recently ) which don’t involve the distruction of an embryo which would open up the idea of stem cell therapy as a viable treatment to many who suffer from Parkinson’s disease and so on.

Also, Libertas isnt just about stopping Lisbon, it’s become more than that, it’s about stopping the total disregard the EU institutions and those within them have for the people of Europe. It’s about putting an end to the gravy train mentality in Brussels (if you’ve ever been there you’ll know what I am talking about) which we pay for. It’s about putting a halt the flow of unnecessary and costly regulation, it’s about making the institutions more transparent, revealing how MEPs have voted so you and I can know how and on what MEPs voted (if you’ve ever tried to look this up presently you will know how difficult it can be) and it’s also about trying to make the EU more democratic, for instance by proposing that countries elect their commissioners rather than appointing them. If one country does this others will follow.


 
Emerald Islander
Apr 27, 2009 at 2:50 pm

With all respect, I think that you are looking at LIBERTAS from the wrong angle, and thus you come up with a rather simplistic black-and-white analysis.
LIBERTAS began its work as a think tank (something we still have not enough of in Ireland) and its opposition to the Lisbon Treaty was a result of thoughts and ideas the think tank had developed.
Decland Ganley might well be a strongly believing Catholic of the traditional kind, but this alone will not win him – or anyone else – any parliamentary seats or political office in today’s Ireland. (Kathy Sinnott, for example, made her name as a campaigner for disabled people first and was elected on her merits in this field, as well as her considerable courage in general.)

I am not a Catholic, and not even a Christian. But I can see that a party like LIBERTAS could find a lot of support from decent people who have been systematically betrayed and robbed by Fianna Fail for many years and do not see much alternatives coming from Fine Gael either.

For now the new party is only fielding candidates for the European Parliament and not for local and national elections. This in itself is a novelty, and it will be interesting to see how it works.
As an independent historian who belongs to no party and no religion, I have to acknowledge that – whatever else it may turn out to be – LIBERTAS is the first intellectual movement in more than 1200 years that began in Ireland and then spread out over the continent of Europe.
Last time such a movement from Ireland expanded to the continent it created a deep and long-lasting impact which is still in evidence today. At least a dozen European towns and more than 100 monasteries were founded by Irish monks between the 7th and 9th century. They are all still in existence and have grown to strength and prominence. I am looking forward to see if the new movement of our time might be able to achieve anything of similar significance (even though it will certainly not establish new towns and monasteries).


 
Eurocentric
Apr 27, 2009 at 11:07 pm

If the Lisbon Treaty is rejected, then Libertas’ role in the EP will be just as unclear.

An important question here is how much Libertas is a top-down party? Libertas’ Irish and Polish candidates may hold traditional Catholic views, but what about its Dutch candidates? (Would all Libertas candidates vote in a similar manner in the EP?). How much input in the party’s manifesto will its membership have compared to that of the leadership? If Libertas is simply directed by its Irish leadership, then I imagine that it will only be a temporary entity on the pan-European stage, since a pan-European party needs to be more than a temporary one-issue coalition (even if the national branches are coherent, is it coherent pan-Europeanly?). Their manifesto may reveal a common ideological approach to regulation and CAP, etc., which is what they really need to be a credible force in the EP.

It will be interesting to read it. I think if the manifesto turns out quite vague, then Libertas won’t be a cohesive enough force to last into the medium to long term.

@ Libertas Fan

Personally I would be against each country electing their Commissioner, since it would be unclear what post they would be running for (since the Commission President can shuffle his/her canbinet/college) so it would be hard to make the electorate’s decision really count. I prefer either the Commission being elected by the EP (i.e. just like the Dáil elects the government), or having a directly elected Commission President who appoints Commissioners with the consent of the EP. In both cases there should be a Charter to ensure that small member states are adequtely represented in the Commission.


 
Jason O
Apr 28, 2009 at 7:03 am

A common ideologicaL approach? Ganley is a free trader, De Villiers is a protectionist, Ganley is pro-American, De Villiers isn’t, and don’t even get started on CAP. Raymond O’Malley has traditionally supported MORE CAP money for farmers, whilst Ganley called CAP a weapon of mass destruction. Once Lisbon is off the table, their traditional Catholic views may be the only thing that stops these these guys from falling apart.


 
french derek
Apr 28, 2009 at 5:45 pm

Well put, Jason O. De Villiers is a fine entrepreneur (he founded and owns the Puy du Fou park in France) but holds some strange political ideas, which seem at odds with much of what I’ve read from Ganley. As Eurocentric points out, though, not all Libertas candidates are “good Catholics”.

However, Libertas have showed that it is possible to construct a single pan-EU party – rather than a composite of party blocs, as we have had so far.

They won’t get my vote but do get marks for entrepreneurialism.


 

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