Jun 09 2008
It’s few weeks (May 16th) now since I began researching the Lisbon Treaty and its ratification’s repercussions on the Irish Constitution, on the lives of the Irish people and, most importantly, on my life.
I do not envy political analysts and journalists who have to cover these things. I guess, like anything else, if you are passionate about it, you will find it interesting, you will find it exciting and you will find it easy to comprehend. I am not a political analyst. I am the common man, trying to understand this major change to Europe and I have struggled.
I began by gathering information from a number of sources: the Referendum Commission’s website and handbook (the latter being a useless waste of paper – it doesn’t even have the referendum’s date on it); the websites of the Yes campaign (Fianna Fail, Fine Gael, Labour, etc.); the websites of the No side (Sinn Fein, Libertas, etc.), I talked with friends who were in favour of it; I spoke with friends who were against it. Ultimately, it was clear that very few people had all the answers I sought, so I tried to summarise the Treaty in one succinct post. Now, any regular reader will know that I don’t really do brevity, but in this instance I really tried to chop it all down into small easily digestible pieces. It was impossible and while my post Lisbon and Me has gained a lot of hits and some favourable comments, I don’t feel I was able to do any better job that the many sources I had consulted.
I progressed with my research and asked more questions and very quickly began to veer towards a No vote. Once the pendulum swung that way, I made a concerned effort to seek answers and explanations from the Yes camp, so I didn’t blindly vote with my gut instinct. No one has been able to give me a sufficient reason to vote Yes. I even consulted the good people in the European Union House on Dawson/Molesworth Street who have some lovely hand-written signs pleading with people to go in and ask them questions. They were understandably biased towards a Yes and after speaking with them, I began to have even more adverse feelings for the Yes campaign. I asked why I should vote Yes, but they seemed to be throwing facts and figures at me that were aimed at telling me why I should not vote No. What’s the difference? I was looking for honest and solid explanation as to why the Treaty will be good, but they just wanted to tell me why voting No would be bad.
And that seems to be the consensus approach of all the Yes campaigners. Rubbish the No-sayers and hope propaganda and scare-mongering will secure ratification. Not that the No campaign has been any better. The approach of the No campaign has been to rely on people’s disinterest in gaining information and preying upon that, or to shout down the Yes campaigners and make outlandish claims about abortion, unemployment, high taxation, neutrality and war.
Exercise Your Franchise
And yet, I have settled on a decision. Firstly, I will definitely vote on Thursday. I don’t like the argument “I don’t understand it, therefore I won’t vote on it”. Saying that is the equivalent of saying, “I don’t understand it, therefore my vote won’t matter, I don’t matter”. If your opinion is that you don’t understand the Treaty, then have that opinion heard and vote No. This may result in the Treaty being sent to us again for another referendum, but maybe the powers that be will make a greater effort to educate the common man the next time around. Not voting will mean your opinion and your lack of understanding is irrelevant.
I Will Vote No
I will vote No for a number of reasons, not least of which is the fact that the electorate has not been given a clear picture of what is involved in changing our Constitution. This is the fault of the Referendum Commission and the Government. I am one of the people who confidently voted in the current government and I feel let down by this debacle.
Secondly, the Yes campaign has been unable to convince me that the Treaty is a good thing. I have received vague answers which only serve to convince me that many of the Yes campaigners do not fully understand the Treaty themselves. Even the sections I am in favour of, seem to baffle some of the Yessers I have spoken with. Much as I am irritated by the poor campaigning by the No side also, it is not their job to do the convincing. Many of those calling for a No vote are merely seeking to maintain the status quo. If the Treaty is not ratified, we will not be kicked out of the EU, we will not be fined, we will not feel the mighty hammer of France and Germany down upon our figurative brows. A vote No, is a vote to keep things as they are.
Now, I am a liberal and very much in favour of progress and change to further this progress, but change for the sake of change and change without fully understanding the outcomes of those changes is stupid and irresponsible. A vote for No will allow time for understanding of what changes are proposed. It will allow time to fully appreciate what positive progress is required and what we need to do to achieve it.
Voting No is not anti-Europe. Some of the Yes campaigners are actually suggesting this is a referendum on Europe as a whole. It is not. I am very much pro-EU and I believe that future prosperity for out little nation can only come in partnership with the EU, but partnership is very different to being one nation. The Treaty is a step towards a Supernation ruled predominantly by the European Parliament. The EU Constitution was defeated in France and the Netherlands, and the Lisbon Treaty is a watered down version of this Constitution (this is stated by many members of the Yes camp and by many EU Ministers). A No vote will not remove us from Europe. We will still continue to benefit from our close ties and trade links.
I am still not happy with many aspects of the new voting systems to be introduced by Lisbon. The Yes group makes a great fuss about unanimous decisions being required for all major issues which will effect Europe as a whole and Ireland in particular. But these unanimous decisions are not decisions made by the people, they are made by the government and we live in a country where the two main parties, the two largest parties, who are in opposition to each other, have such blinkered pro-Europe stances that it must raise some alarm bells every time a major vote on Europe arises.
At Last, A Conclusion
I am not trying to convince anyone to vote No. I am simply laying out my reasons for doing so. This referendum is a perfect example of bad bureaucracy in action. It has been a shambles from day one and no side can claim any moral high ground. The Yes group have been inefficient have been saying nothing quite loudly. The No campaigners have focused on false-prophet issues such as abortion and neutrality, which are not directly effected by the Treaty and have failed to put up a convincing argument, relying instead on the nervous nature of the electorate.
So, has everyone else made up their minds? How will you be voting?