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The Lisbon Treaty
Wednesday April 15, 2009 13:44 by Richard Whelan whelanno-1 at hotmail dot com
Why we should vote Yes to ensure Irish national interests- and how a second No vote would be at odds with Irish interests
The Lisbon Treaty was rejected by Irish voters last year, amidst the backdrop of an inept Government, a No campaign run by vested interests and a general level of ignorance as regards content of the Treaty. These are the reasons why we should vote Yes, why we shouldn't trust No campaigners and how the Lisbon Treaty is our ticket to a more transparent and democratic Europe, with Ireland at the centre of a stronger EU.
The day of June 12th last year was decision time for the Irish electorate on the Lisbon Treaty, a redesigned and updated version of the previous EU Constitution, created in large parts during the 2004 Irish Presidency of the EU but further rejected by the French and Dutch electorates. Ireland, the most Europhile country in the Union, was to be the only country to have a referendum on the Treaty and while this augered well for the possibility of the Treaty being passed, vested interests, an inept Government, and a simple lack of knowledge on what the Treaty entailed were to swing the result to a categoric No vote (winning by a margin of just under 8%).
The implications for such a decision are far reaching both for Ireland and Europe. As the recession grips tighter and trade and employment levels fall dramatically, it does Ireland no harm in being part of the largest economy in the world and part of the world's most stable currency, ensuring a bank solvency that would have not been possible under the old Irish punt (our banks would have went the same way as Iceland's- total collapse). For the European Union, it now means that as things stand, no candidate countries can be allowed membership. There is simply no scope for more countries due to the limitations of governance that are operated under the Nice Treaty. The EU is now at a standstill in relation to reform of major institutions such as the Commission and Parliament, with no way of rectifying this situation for the forseeable future.
There has been nowhere near the required level of debate on this huge issue up to date. The decision of 862,000 voters to speak on behalf of almost 500 million EU citizens, but who voted in huge numbers with ignorance as to what the Treaty entailed, must be viewed more critically. While I will be rightly reminded that this is the democratic will of the Irish people, democracy is surely not fulfilled by the decision of a tiny minority to vote for the vast majority of EU citizens, who's parliamentarians in 23 countries have ratified it already. The level of misinformation spread on the Treaty, and the degree of ignorance as regards the content of the Treaty among the Irish electorate, means that a second referendum is a must. After all, would anyone want to sign a contract with a final decision with no level of knowledge as to what they are signing on?
For anyone looking objectively on the Treaty, a Yes vote will ensure a fairer, more democratic Europe, with small countries like Ireland having a much bigger say in areas of defence and foreign policy. The European Parliament is to have a much greater role in creating EU legislation and will have greater control over the EU budget. A clause which allows for the inclusion of national parliaments in the decision making process at a European level will counter the current democratic deficit, along with the enhanced role of our elected European representatives. The Charter of Fundamental Rights would become legally binding, further enhancing the freedoms which we have grown used to in recent decades. It would lead to an increased level of cooperation between Member States in areas of energy, environment, security, transportation, social/economic policy. The provision for a European Defence Agency will lead to a greater role for European peacekeeping missions in the world's poorest countries suffering from conflict, in the face of the often inefficient and ineffectual UN missions.
So why say no? All of this makes for an Ireland in a far stronger EU that is more democratic, cooperative, and with a stronger role in world affairs. This of course is where the vested interests mentioned earlier come in. Libertas, the anti Lisbon advocacy group was at the centre of the No campaign in the run up to the referendum and it's charismatic founder Declan Ganley received much media attention, attention that should have been on the contents of the Treaty. Declan Ganley for many years has listed himself as a British citizen, and as CEO of Rivada Networks, has provided for many years cellular telecommunications technology to the US military. This network was also involved in bidding for a license to operate a cellular network in Iraq. Libertas has up to this date refused to disclose information on it's funding sources, and Declan Ganley has previously written for a conservative US policy think-tank which states that it is “devoted to bringing the insights of scholarship to bear on the development of policies that advances US national interests.” Can we honestly say that we trust this man and his organisation, in informing us of Ireland and Europe's best interests? I know that I certainly don't.
Other advocates of the No vote included Sinn Féin, CORI, the People Before Profit Alliance and the British media. Sinn Féin, I'm sure, were chuffed when they found themselves celebrating in the EU Parliament with the Eurosceptic British right wing, who of course find much in common with the Republican values of Sinn Féin. CORI gained support from mostly conservative, old rural voters by spreading outrageous lies regarding abortion rights and the Treaty, of which there is no clause as the EU Commission believe such issues to be the decisions of national governments and not the European Union. In the run up to the referendum, the People Before Profit Alliance stated that democracy would be eroded, with less decision making by the Irish people and an erosion of Ireland's neutrality. As already stated, the democratic process will be greatly enhance by the Lisbon Treaty, and any peacekeeping mission which Ireland is to participate in will require the permission of the Dáil. In our current state, our neutrality is already being eroded by the continued US military presence at Shannon and would be a much more worthwhile issue for People Before Profit to concentrate on. The British media of course have long had an anti EU agenda, which they see as detrimental to Britain's position as a world power. Britain has always had an arrogant attitude towards the EU seeing themselves as superior to the Continent. Considering our long history with this side of Britain, it would surely be a real irony and tragedy of Irish history that after so many centuries of struggle for independance, we get sucked in foolishly by the very people who opressed us beforehand, and who utilise us to further their own agendas.
The second referendum of the Lisbon Treaty gives us a chance to redeem ourselves both as Irish and European citizens. By voting Yes, we are ensuring our continued place at the heart of Europe, the largest economic market in the world and an increasing player around the world, acting as a counter to the dominant US in world affairs. We are ensuring cooperation with our neighbours in facing the ever mounting challenges of the 21st century world- terrorism, climate change, a looming energy crisis, conflict and demographic change. By voting No, we are ensuring our place as a small island off the coast of Britain, with very little say on anything (with credibility down to nil). The EU would bail us out if we became bankrupt- something that would not happen with our diminished role in Europe. By voting No, we are serving the interests of the right wing, who's interest lies in profit, the erosion of worker's rights and in some cases the pursuit of US national interests. It is of paramount importance for our nation's future that we are part of a stronger, more transparent European Union- something the Lisbon Treaty will ensure.