This is a strange referendum. Since the Nice Treaty, I have started every campaign on the No side, a believer in European integration but uneasy about the tawdry nature of the treaties, and the constant delay in addressing the Democratic Disconnect. During the course of every campaign, however, I have been driven to the Yes side by the hysterical, populist, opportunistic and reckless arguments of many of the major players in the No campaign, and a desire that my vote not be taken as an endorsement of them. It should be said, of course, that there were some on the No side who opposed the previous treaties for honourable reasons, but it was not they who made me vote Yes.
This time is different. There are people whom I respect, whose political opinions are not that different from mine, who will be voting No, and for reasons that I may not agree with but can understand. This treaty, like its predecessors, fails to deal with the democratic issues within the EU and is only one part of an overall solution to the crisis this continent finds itself in. It is primarily, as Declan Ganley has pointed out, for political consumption in Germany.
So why am I voting Yes?
I agree with about 90% of what Declan Ganley says. I even agree with some of Sinn Fein’s arguments about the need for spending. But the No side cannot convince me that we will have access to vital funding if we need it. Moreover, if they were to succeed in achieving a No vote, and were proven wrong about funding, I do not believe that Sinn Fein or the ULA would do anything but immediately and shamelessly attack the government for the outcome.
In short, a No vote will not be Sinn Fein’s problem but yet another tool for them to use in their populist easy answers campaign to win power in this country. After all, can anyone imagine any possible scenario where Sinn Fein in opposition would advocate a Yes vote? Any at all? It is Sinn Fein’s voters who will bear the brunt of social welfare payments being cut in the event of a lack of EU funding, and the fact that Sinn Fein are willing to take that risk with the people who vote for them shows a cold political calculating ability probably unmatched in this republic.
Of course, Sinn Fein and the ULA maintain that the treaty will copper fasten austerity. This has for me raised the question of what they believe austerity means? It is not true, for example, that this treaty will restrict the ability of an Irish government to expand social spending. What this treaty will do will be to force future politicians promising public spending to openly explain who will pay the extra taxes required to fund their promises, something the ULA and Sinn Fein are deeply uncomfortable with.
If anything, this aspect of the treaty is one of the few positive parts of the whole process, in that it may force those on the so-called Irish Left to openly espouse real socialist policies including the sacrifice of common taxes for the common good. This treaty will make politicians (on all sides) confront the reality of their promises, and for that reason, EU reasons aside, it is worth voting for on Thursday.