Tuesday, June 10, 2008

All you ever wanted to know about Lisbon, but were afraid to ask

During a lengthy interview on The Right Hook over on Newstalk 106 yesterday evening, Melancholicus heard the most compelling case yet made for a No vote, and it has strengthened his conviction that when he votes No this coming Thursday, he shall be acting aright, in the interests of not only this country but of the other 26 nations who together make up the constituent states of the European Union.

For Melancholicus must admit to having experienced, over the course of the last week, a crisis of conscience which caused him to vacillate on the referendum, even to the extent of wondering if he ought not to vote Yes.

This largely because all the movers and shakers in Irish business and politics are solidly in favour of ratifying the Lisbon Treaty; the Irish bishops are, if not for the Treaty, at least not against it; and even the most recent issue of the Irish Catholic newspaper, while not committing itself absolutely one way or the other (much like the bishops) seemed to favour a Yes vote.

On the other hand, the No campaign is led by persons with decidedly less impressive credentials. The only political party currently with representation in the Dáil that advocates a No vote is Sinn Féin, a party of decidedly marxist hue, not to mention its close links with the now dormant IRA. Furthermore, Melancholicus doesn’t really know who Libertas and Cóir (two groups prominently opposing Lisbon) are, or where they have come from, even though he is broadly in sympathy with the objections they urge against the Treaty. Then there is Youth Defence (enough said). Finally, the Treaty is also opposed by a mixum-gatherum of far-left parties and far-left individuals, and in opposing Lisbon Melancholicus found himself in the unenviable position of being on the same side of the divide even as the socialists.

Necessity, as they say, is the mother of strange bedfellows.

Melancholicus is concerned that many persons intending to cast their vote on Thursday might vote Yes simply because of all the kooky people currently advocating a No vote — which would be for the wrong reason entirely — for he was himself almost on the point of defecting to the Yes camp precisely because of all the kooky people on the No side.

This despite the fact that the Yes side has been unable to offer a single compelling reason why the Treaty must be ratified; catch-calls such as “let’s make Europe work better” and “for jobs, the economy and Ireland’s future” and “let’s make Europe more democratic” are slogans and nothing more, since they do not provide us with any details on how, precisely, ratifying the Treaty will accomplish any of these things.

Let us also not confuse “Europe” (i.e. the institutions) with the 27 sovereign nations over which these institutions preside.

In any case, sense has now prevailed, and Melancholicus has his mind comfortably made up on the matter.

But back to Newstalk. Hookie’s guest was Professor Gwyn Prins of the London School of Economics who, unlike many of those who have offered their opinions in the columns of the newspapers and on the airwaves, has actually studied the text of the Treaty itself in some detail, was able to speak from a position of knowledge and authority, and what he had to say ought to have made sobering listening for any thinking of voting Yes.

Among the startling claims made by Professor Prins — in the face of rigorous cross-examination by Hookie — and contrary to the assurances offered us by our political and economic leaders, are the following:

  • The Lisbon Treaty reproduces the substance (95% or thereabouts) of the European Constitution rejected in referenda by the French and the Dutch in 2005.

  • The Lisbon Treaty IS self-amending, despite the vehement denials that have issued forth from both Brussels and Leinster House.

  • In the arena of defence and foreign policy, the Lisbon Treaty WILL create a European army.

  • Ireland’s veto in regard to taxation is NOT safe once Lisbon is ratified.

  • Brussels WILL have greater powers to overrule the laws of any of the constituent 27 nations.

  • The loss of representation imposed by the new structures decreed into existence by Lisbon IS proportionally much greater for the small nations than for the larger.

There were many other points also, but these seemed to Melancholicus to be the most significant, so he shall leave the matter there.

So we must now ask ourselves, is Professor Prins lying? What he is telling us is absolutely contrary to what our politicians are telling us, so it is clear that both positions cannot be correct. Therefore, who is wrong?

Once again, is Professor Prins lying? Melancholicus is inclined to think not. For Professor Prins has, personally, less at stake than the politicians, and less motive to tell blatant untruths.

Not to mention the fact that we are all of us thoroughly accustomed to the ways of politicians, with their habitual lying. That our Taoiseach, or his ministers, or the leaders of the other parties in the Dáil, might lie to us should surely surprise no one.

Maybe the socialists are right after all. Even a stopped clock is right twice a day.

So, gentle reader and compatriot, are you still thinking of voting Yes?

No comments: