May 17 2008

Lisbon And Me – Deciding The Future

Published by at 8:13 pm under Blog,Politics

Following on from yesterday’s post, I’ve heard a few arguments at this stage from both sides and I’m currently erring towards a ‘No’ vote for a variety of reasons. Some of these reasons may seem on the face of it to be slightly invalid, but if you hear me out, I’d like to explain my current thinking.

Firstly, it’s worth pointing out that there are reasons to vote ‘Yes’. Much of the Treaty is nothing more than a bureaucratic exercise to rename some judicial bodies and combine a bunch of already agreed upon charters and treaties. Much of the Treaty is about improving efficiencies of government and ease decision making. So, on the outset, a simple tick in the Yes box seems logical. In fact, it may be argued that Ireland is the only country required to hold a referendum because of our own bureaucracy and the need to reword our own bit of paper – the constitution.

But then remember, Ireland is the only country that is sending this Treaty to the people. We, as a nation, are the only people who have been given the opportunity to fully read, discuss, debate and either accept or decline this set of rules and systems, that is the closest thing to a Europe wide constitution that we are likely to see for the foreseeable future. Surely we owe it not just to ourselves but also to our European neighbours to, at least, make an informed decision.

So, my first reason for voting No is that the electorate is currently ill-informed and a better effort over a longer period of time should be made to make sure that every single person who ticks Yes or No truly understands what they are saying Yes or No to.

I can already hear the ‘Yessers’ condemn me. “It is up to the individual voter to inform themselves on what they are voting for” and “The only reason people don’t understand is that they are too lay to read and ask questions”. Well, I have made serious efforts to inform myself, I am neither stupid nor lazy, and yet I am still concerned and in need of some further clarifications.

And considering it is only a month to the referendum, why are we only receiving the Commissions pamphlets this week (the only unbiased piece of government literature and it doesn’t even give the date of the referendum!!!), why is the Rock the Vote campaign only kicking off now, why is there an endless barrage of posters and ad campaigns pushing us to say Yes, when there is so very little information regarding the consequences of the ratification of the Treaty. I can now happily say that I understand what changes will be made to both our Constitution and to the make up of the EU, but what influence will the Lisbon Treaty have on my life, if it is made law? I’m still not sure.

I consider myself an intelligent person, reasonably well-educated and informed on current affairs, but I, after many hours of research, am unable to ascertain what the big changes will mean to my daily life. Indeed, Mr Doyle asked a number of questions yesterday:

Nope, I still don’t get it, despite how well you’ve explained it Darren. I don’t see why we need it or how it will benefit us or indeed Europe.

Europe has undeniably been good to us and I hate the feeling that because of that we should vote yes.

What I’d like to know is:

Will it mean a better education system where schools are better funded, teachers better trained and more facilities provided?

Will it mean a better health service with shorter waiting lists, less bureaucracy and more availability to people of all financial situations?

Will it mean a better police force, helping to prevent random crimes, racist attacks and the like and to cut down on the amount of drugs in the country?

Will it mean social workers get more help, training and resource to deal with the problems in working class areas?

Will it mean higher levels of pensions for OAPs and people on invalidity pensions, and help unemployed people get training and skills that they need?

Will it improve the standard and quality of living?

Until I get an answer to those I’m not going to vote either way. I’ve read the literature and still can’t see the benefit.

As Elly then pointed out, these issues have nothing to do with the Treaty, they are our own government’s responsibility, not Europe’s. If someone as savvy and informed as Darragh is asking questions about areas that the Treaty has no influence on, then clearly the Referendum Commission has not sufficiently done its job.

To be clear, the Treaty will not effect –

  • harmonisation of direct taxes
  • our neutrality
  • our stance on abortion
  • our childcare system
  • our healthcare system
  • our responsibilities to the elderly
  • our system of education

So my second reason, an extension of my first, even if everyone is given a detailed breakdown of the 294 page document, even if Dick Roche goes around to each voter in Ireland and explains which treaties will be amended, what Articles will be removed and what will be brought it, even if every single person knows what the wording is inside and out, how will anyone know what ultimate influence the EU Reform Treaty (it goes by that name too) will have on their lives and the lives of their children.

Truthfully, I wonder if any of the ministers know what effect it will have in the long term. Are the EU Ministers just putting together this document of reform in order to simplify their lives and remove many of the headaches and much of th paperwork they must endure by sticking to the rules which we currently have. If this were the truth and they admitted it, I’d be more inclined to vote Yes, because at least then I’d be making an informed decision.

The other side of the coin, however, is the No campaign is very poor. Sinn Fein and Libertas’ arguments are invalid and Europhobic. There is ample evidence that the EU has been a fantastic thing for our country (but that is not a sufficient ‘Yes’ argument) and saying No to Europe in its entirety is ignorant of the truth. So, I await a good argument from the No side as much as the Yes.

I expect that through my own research and discussions, I will ultimately be swayed towards ratification of Lisbon, but am I being naive in throwing down the gauntlet to both sides of the debate and asking them both…convince me.

I’ll keep you updated as to where my loyalties lie, as they undoubtedly seesaw from Yay to Nay. Today it’s a No; tomorrow, who knows?

Previous posts:

Lisbon and Me

7 responses so far

7 Responses to “Lisbon And Me – Deciding The Future”

  1. Benon 18 May 2008 at 12:28 pm

    posted at 8.13pm . . no wonder you were late last night!

    Im a Yes man, always have been , always will be. What Treaty now? Sorry i wasnt listening at the start. . .

  2. Rosieon 18 May 2008 at 12:40 pm

    huzzah for Darren, reading the Lisbon Treaty so that i don’t have to!

    both of your posts on it have been very helpful, i’ll be passing them on to other confused souls.

  3. B'dum B'dumon 18 May 2008 at 1:16 pm

    If Sinn Fein had some decent marketing people on their staff they’d realise the best way they could get people to vote No is by telling everyone to vote Yes.

  4. Benon 18 May 2008 at 1:54 pm

    That Mary Lou is a cracker but thank god im not that shallow to be lulled into voting No just cause the girls got looks. .

    Amn’t I?

  5. FutureTaoiseachon 18 May 2008 at 7:18 pm

    The central figure in the negotiation of the EU Constitution – Giscard d’Estaing – admits that the content is no different, and that the reason for it now being called a Treaty is to head off referenda in other EU countries. We also have Irish politicians trampling on the wishes of the peoples of France and the Netherlands, and asking us to assist them and the other 26 governments in doing so. Even if you leave aside the merits or demerits you believe are contained in the contents of the Treaty, it cannot be credibly denied that if this treaty is ratified in Ireland, it will mark a serious erosion of wider European democracy. It will have set a precedent whereby nations can have sovereignty ceded to supranational EU institutions not merely without the expressed-consent – but against their expressed refusal of this consent. When taken against that background, the largely symbolic ‘powers’ of 9 national parliaments to give non-binding advice that proposed EU legislation be withdrawn, and the much-vaunted ‘Citizens Initiative’ of 1 million signatures to ask the same – again non-binding – are exposed for the pig-in-a-poke that they are. The only answer can be a firm “No”.

  6. Darrenon 19 May 2008 at 12:17 pm

    @Ben The joys of having a decent phone is being able to blog on the bus (although it might explain my low picture count and lack of linkage). You should invest in a decent mobile.

    @Rosie Thank you very much!

    @B’DumX2 lmao – I think you might be on to something.

    @FutureTaoiseach Fair play for an excellent reply, showing that the NO side does have something worthwhile to say. Lisbon does feel far too much like Diet EU Constitution and I would be concerned that it is just a step towards creating USA 2.0, which I DO NOT want to be part of. I am pro Europe, but I am far more pro- maintaining Ireland’s independence and relative isolation.

  7. Michael Walshon 25 May 2008 at 3:40 pm

    You’re essentially right. It is impossible to predict exactly what will happen if we ratify the Lisbon Treaty. We simply don’t now know what kind of laws the Commission will propose in 5 or 10 years’ time. The treaties, with or without Lisbon, provide a framework to enact law. They don’t dictate exactly what those laws will be. But the same was true 50 years’ ago when the EEC was founded and 35 years ago when Ireland joined. For that matter when the Irish Constitution was enacted 70 years’ ago no one was sure how it would be interpreted or how it would operate in practice. Sometimes it’s necessary to take a step into the darkness and see how it goes. It’s not a huge gamble. the treaties are long and relatively specific for a reason. The EU’s leaders don’t like taking huge gambles either.

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