An occasional guide to Irish (And EU) politics: Enhanced Cooperation

Oh say can you see, the committee voting by QMV?Despite knowing what both words mean, when one puts them together, they’re so bland that they could mean anything. Enhanced Cooperation? It could, for example, be a dubious Viagra-enhanced encounter in a darkened gay sauna.

And maybe it is. But in an EU context, it is the equivalent of a gang of kids forming their own tree-house club, and then being forced to let Gavin with the funny-shaped head play by their mum. Of course, it is slightly different from children in that any kid who suggested “Hey, let’s form our own currency union!” would almost certainly be beaten up by other kids. That is, assuming he didn’t have the comedic nous to at least name the currency in a child-friendly manner, such as calling it, say, the Farto, and with 100 Poos to the Farto. Enhanced cooperation is actually the device that was invented to stop the British blocking everything by storming off to the corner with a jutting lower lip and a folded arm sulk. Or indeed the post- Lisbon Irish, for that matter.

The idea is this: If a third of the member states want to do something that a) not everyone wants to do (Say, funding a series of statutes of David Hasselhoff with real glistening chest hair. His chest hair, actually shaved off by him and donated. And don’t say he wouldn’t do it. He’s the Hoff.), and b) isn’t illegal under EU law, they can, as long as any other country that wants to join and meets the criteria can also join. Current examples are the Eurozone and the passport free Schengen Agreement, which differing groups of countries believe to be alternatively cool and smelly, depending on which gang one was in.   

Its opponents say that it is pretty much a gateway to a two speed Europe, and there is an element of truth to that. But the reality is that it is an incredibly European solution to a European problem, letting countries share what they wish without being held up by the crankiest (The British, Irish, Poles and Hungarians) or by those who actually hate their bloody country and want a United States of Europe quicker than you can say “Oi! Schumann! What’s that coal and steel palaver you’re always goin’ on about anyway?” (The Belgians.)  And you can bet your bottom Farto on that.

A great movie: The Last Hurrah.

If you want to understand Irish politics, you could do far worse than watch John Ford’s 1958 classic “The Last Hurrah”, starring Spencer Tracy as (basically) the mayor of Boston seeking reelection to a fifth term. It’s good old fashioned Mayor Daley pork barrelled stuff, about the graft and simple human interaction needed to win elections. Keep an eye out for a young Jeffrey Hunter, who was the first captain of the USS Enterprise before being replaced by a young actor named William Shatner. There’s also a reference to a well known Fianna Fail politician of the time. Great stuff, with Tracy just superb to watch.

The Lisbon Campaign Awards.

1. The “Big Mo” Award: Ireland for Europe/Women for Europe. The Brendan Halligan/Pat Cox led organisation got what Americans call momentum with a constant stream of endorsements and a focus on non-politicians selling the message. It also had in Andrew Byrne an exceptionally talented organiser.

2. The Just Vote F**king Yes Award: Michael O’Leary. He’s a divisive figure, although every small businessman loves the guy for his bluntness. The decision to wade into the battle had an effect on the campaign, and his “Unemployable f**king headbangers” description of the No campaign was probably the most memorable line of the campaign, as was the press conference it was delivered at.

3. The A Lie Too Far Award: Coir’s €1.84 poster, which was such a big and disprovable lie that although it was effective, it allowed the Yes side to lay into them for blatant porkifying.

4. The Just The Facts, Mam Award: The European Movement, who although they did not campaign for a yes or no vote, published the best guide  to the treaty, and the tireless Andrea Pappin, who traipsed the country with a well-thumbed copy of the treaty and an inflatable sheep, and got savaged by people on both the Yes and No side for her troubles.

5. The Storm The Barricades Award: Joe Higgins MEP. Unlike the shinners, who were obtuse and seemed to change their opinions on the EU depending on whether they were north or south of Dundalk, and Coir, who just made shit up, Joe argued from a point of principle. Didn’t agree with him, but believed he was sincere. Having said that, if you asked him for the recipe to a really light and fluffy souffle he’d almost certainly demand that a worker’s collective be included.

6. The Here Comes The Cavalry Award: This has to go to UKIP, who assumed that the dumb paddies don’t know anything about British politics. Their intervention almost certainly shifted soft Nos into the Yes camp. The Yes campaign should do the decent thing and pay Nigel Farage’s airfare.  

7. The Blitzkrieg Award: Generation Yes, run by Bart Storan and Sharon Waters, was the paramilitary wing of the Yes side, and brought a lot of Full Metal Jacket style energy to the campaign.

8. The Puff Of Purple Smoke And They Were Gone Award: Coir/ Youth Defence. Just who were those mysterious people and their posters and their granny frightening?

9. The Bring Back The Old Days Award: Alive, the Catholic “publication”, and its unbiased “Does the EU want to make it compulsory for you to breed with weasels?” coverage of the treaty.

10. The Jaysus That Could Have Been Me! Award: Iceland, for making a lot of Irish people wake up and realise that, but for an “R” and not vaguely smelling of cod liver oil all the time, that could have been us.

Our UKIP friends turn on us-Shock horror!

From today’s Irish Times. Like we are going to take lectures on democracy from a country that elects a prime minister despite 65% of people voting against him?:

UKIP slams ‘corrupt’ Lisbon vote

UK Independence Party leader Nigel Farage, who entered the Irish debate calling for a No vote, compared the Lisbon Treaty referendum with a corrupt election in Zimbabwe or Afghanistan.

The MEP for South East England said there was a “wall of money” for the Yes campaign, and blamed High Court judgments and broadcasting laws for conspiring against the anti-Lisbon side. “The Irish have been bullied into voting Yes,” he said.

“I have to say while I’m disappointed by the result, I think the whole thing has been an absolute travesty of democracy. The way this thing has been conducted is more akin to Zimbabwe or Afghanistan. This has not been a free and fair referendum.”

Mr Farage said the Lisbon Treaty would now be adopted and lead to a more powerful European Union and that Yes voters would be disappointed that it would not bring more jobs and prosperity.

“I guess history may well look back upon this day as being the day when the very short, brief period of Irish independence actually ended,” he said.

The Ukip leader said his fight would now turn to Britain where his party would heap pressure on Conservative Party leader David Cameron to deliver a referendum if elected to Downing Street next year.

Mr Farage is a member of the right-wing Europe of Freedom and Democracy – a Eurosceptic grouping of nine political parties in the European Parliament.

The group delivered 1.5 million leaflets to every house in the Republic in the run-up to the poll.

Mr Farage was involved in a number of robust exchanges with Yes campaigners, including Minister for European Affairs Dick Roche who said Ukip was “drawn from the same political gene pool as the neo-fascist British National Party”.

Ireland dodges a (Very Stupid) Bullet.

Seriously, we’ve got to cut this shit out. I mean, honestly, a referendum on a complex treaty that most of our voters would not bother to read, and yet we placed the most important foriegn policy decision since 1969 in their hands. We must be mad.

Now, don’t get me wrong. I’m not saying Irish voters aren’t smart enough to understand. We as a people are no smarter or more thick than anyone else. But the problem is that we can’t be arsed. We can barely force ourselves to study The Rules of The Road. If we had posted an annotated readable copy of the treaty ( Like the IIEA’s Peadar O’Broin’s excellent version.) to every voter in the place, they still wouldn’t read it. This stuff should be done by parliament.

That’s not democratic! Shout the usual suspects. Yeah, it is. If you don’t trust the people in the Dail, then vote them out. But to elect a Dail and then say that we don’t trust them, whose fault is that? The Dail doesn’t elect itself.

Fact: We dodged a disastrous foriegn policy decision whilst praying that people wouldn’t believe that ludicrous lies put out by (some) No campaigners whom the same people wouldn’t give a majority to on a county council, let alone run the country.

Let’s not do this again. 

Just watch how our new UKIP “friends” will turn on us if we don’t do what they want.

Just wait and see. If we vote No today, people like me will have to, through gritted teeth admittedly, just accept the result. We didn’t like the last result, but we didn’t question its legitimacy, and we stopped the ratification process.

Now watch what happens if we don’t vote the way UKIP and their Tory headbanger fellow travellers want. Watch how they go from defending “Plucky little Ireland” to questioning the legitimacy of the vote and announcing that the Irish didn’t have the courage to vote No and were frightened and bullied.

Whatever happens today, the Yes side will accept the result. Will UKIP?

Still, at least we’ll have the Brits to look after us…

You know those people who say that other EU countries cannot move on without us? They might like to read this. As the Yes side has consistantly said during the campaign, we cannot be forced to go anywhere we don’t want to go. But we can’t stop others going on without us. Even the Brits, with 55 million people more than us, can’t do that.  

Ireland votes No. Then what?

What does a No vote actually mean?

What does a No vote actually mean?

One of the more surprising aspects of the Lisbon treaty debate is the free pass the No side gets on the outcome. Supposing there is a No vote: What happens next?

We do remain in the EU, and the EU operates under old rules, so no mad crisis. But what happens when other EU countries respect our decision not to support further integration, but wish to go ahead themselves?

This is where Mary Lou, Joe Higgins, the Tories, Youth Defence and Richard Boyd Barrett fall apart. They claim we can re-negotiate the perfect treaty. But why would the rest of the EU want that? They don’t need us that much, and having voted No twice, we will have been very clear about our opinions. Surely the rest of Europe will know that negotiating with us is a waste of time.

So they negotiate a new treaty, outside the EU, without us even being in the room, respecting our decision not to want to take part. Next year, the Tories will almost certainly win the British general election, and move to take Britain out to the edges of the EU, as  France, Germany, Italy, Spain and most of the other countries move to further integration. Our choice, and it will be our choice, will be to take part in the integration process, or remain outside with the Brits, once again John Bull’s little brother.

How is this of benefit to us? The No campaign hinges on an odd belief that the right of the rest of Europe to move on without us must not be respected, yet demand they respect our right not to move on. The irony is that it will be Sinn Fein that forces us, for the first time in 30 years, to become once again reliant on Britain. Still, at least it shows that MI5 got value for their money.

The (Hopefully) Guff-Free Reason Why you should vote Yes.

Yes, because above all else, we need to be in the room.

Yes, because above all else, we need to be in the room.

Jobs. Inward Investment. Influence within the institutions of…..bleugh. You’ll have heard all that stuff from people smarter than me. 

Here’s why I’m voting Yes.

The EU works. It does more good than harm, and I’ve not come across a proposal from Sinn Fein or Joe Higgins or UKIP or Coir/Youth Defence which makes better sense, and wins as much support, as the EU. 

We’re not voting on the EU, you cry. We’ll still be in the EU regardless of how we vote.

Yeah, that’s true, but here’s my problem:

If we vote No, the rest of Europe will respect our decision. They will accept that we have voted twice against further integration, and that we are sincere in our beliefs that this is as far as we go. In short they will, much to our surprise, actually believe us.

It seems logical to me that those other countries that want to move on will negotiate amongst themselves, and not invite us, because:

A) We have said (Three out of four times.) that we’re not interested.

B) Why would anyone negotiate with an Irish government that can’t get any agreement it makes ratified through a referendum anyway, after failing twice in a row?

They will respect us and leave us be, and I don’t want us to be left be. I want us at the table when Angela Merkel turns and says “What does Ireland think?” and no one on the No side can assure me of that. Neither Joe Higgins, Mary Lou or whoever the mysterious people in Coir/Youth Defence are have the power to make the rest of the EU pay attention to our concerns after a second No vote. Kieran Allen of the Socialist Workers Party (A People Before Profit franchise. Or is it the other way around? I can never remember.) says that the Irish people can take to the streets and demand things from the rest of Europe. Yeah, like we’re going to teach the French how to protest? I can see Sarko snorting already: “Call that a demonstration of public anger? Ha! I’ve seen Carla have bigger tantrums than that!”

There is good stuff in the treaty, but it is technical. The Council will vote in public, for example. Does that excite you? Does that cause your nether regions to stir? Is there anyone closing their curtains, and sweatily slipping “Red Hot Council Decisions Volume 2.” into their DVD player? No there isn’t. But then there are no teenagers slipping a well thumbed copy of “Aircraft Window Sealant regulations” under the sheets either, but next time you get on a plane, and look at the seal around the window, I bet you’ll think: “I hope someone checks this stuff.” Stuff can be boring AND important and this is one of those things.

Many of the people opposed to the treaty are sincere. Joe Higgins is, but Joe is also using the treaty to fight for a vision of society that he has never suceeded in doing in a general election. Trying to turn Ireland into North Korea without the psychotic midget dictator and the daily diet of tree bark and weevils is going to be a hard enough sell. At least turn up on the right battlefield , Joe.

Sinn Fein are still moving away from a 19th century view of the world towards modern times. There are some who say that Sinn Fein opposed this treaty primarily because they knew they would be the only party who would, and so would get additional publicity. Certainly, when you look at the way Sinn Fein ministers in the North talk about the EU (Quite nicely in a More Tea, Vicar? Chocolate Hobnob? kind of way.) and with the same tone that the PSNI talk about their committment to human rights, you can’t help thinking that they’re either two-faced, with a partionist approach to the EU, or the ministers in the North show the way Sinn Fein is heading on Europe. Either way, their alternative has almost no support in the rest of Europe, and believing that Sinn Fein can make the other 26 countries surrender everything is a bit hopeful: When they tried to negotiate with just one country (The Brits), the best they got were all-Ireland telly ads telling us how to not get the runs from food poisoning.

Coir/Youth Defence have it in for, well, 21st Century life on Earth. As one architect friend of mine summed them up: ” According to Coir, voting Yes will mean that the gays can force unborn children to fight in Afghanistan for €1.84 an hour.” How can we listen to people who don’t even identify themselves on their own website? What’s their real agenda, as ide from splitting the lease with Youth Defence?

We have problems, big giant Godzilla-without-cute-Godzuki sized problems coming at us. We don’t need to create new problems for the sake of it, and that’s what we will do with a No vote. If you’re pissed off with the government and the political establishment, that’s fine. Kick the crap out of them at election time.

But voting No to get at the government is like being one of those morons who throws rocks at the fire brigade. As Iceland discovered, the EU is the fire brigade, and it sure is handy having a direct line to the station.

Yes is, quite simply, the sensible self-interested way to go.

Valvadus speaks!



A regular correspondent, Valvadus, has requested an opportunity to share some opinions on topical issues with you. I don’t endorse them all, but am happy to accomodate. 

” Bank Bonuses. We, the gullible, tax-paying (in most cases) public, have always been told that banks had to pay US style salaries, so as to retain bank executives of the highest calibre. That contention has now been entirely disproved, as these “talented” bankers have been shown to be empty suits. However, their primary physical characteristic – a neck of iron – is reappearing, and we will soon see new justifications for seven-figure salaries, commensurate bonuses and cut-price share options.

However, there is a simple solution to the question of bank executive remuneration. Banks should be divided into two categories: those that avail of state deposit protection, and those that decline such protection.

In any bank that chooses protection, salaries and any bonuses would be limited by statute, and all details published. Any bank that elects not to avail of state protection could pay whatever it likes – as long as it is understood that if it fails it will not be supported in any way by the state, and its depositors and shareholders will lose their entire investment.


Give Fas the RUC Treatment

I do not mean send them all to Castlereagh barracks for interrogation, although many in Fas deserve such treatment. (There has always been corruption in Fas, and not just at the top. It has been endemic in many areas, and has tainted an organisation that does have many good and honest people in it.)

What I do mean is that Fas is an entirely discredited organisation, and simply putting a new person in charge will not bring about the radical reform that is needed. We need an entirely new body, a la the PRSI, to handle the State Training remit. Many of the old regime need to be “retired”, and new managers recruited from private industry.

Budgets need to be managed in an innovate way, so as to avoid the existing model where the annual budget must be spent at all costs.

The criteria against which the new organisation’s performance would be judged should be established outside the organisation. Fas has been allowed to set its own targets, and then congratulate itself for superb achievement, year on year.

And all expenditure by or on behalf of executives and directors should be published on the organisation’s website.


The Sunday Independent of 27th September carried a half-page advertisement on behalf of irelandforeurope, exhorting the reader to Put Ireland First, by voting yes in the upcoming Lisbon referendum. It is a wonderful lesson in how not to do what it purports to do.

Firstly, the Yes side can not claim to have a monopoly on putting Ireland first. To suggest otherwise is to offend people who have an open mind, or who have already decided to vote No.

The advertisement does not contain even one attempt at persuasive argument, and is basically a load of emotive pap. It asserts: Our children deserve to grow up in an Ireland of opportunity, equality and fair play. Given the length of time Ireland has been in Europe, and the failure to achieve these admirable objectives thus far, this seems to me to be an argument for voting No.

Valvadus did not vote No last time, but any more of this type of rubbish is likely to make me do so this time.”