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.
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.
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.