Jun 09 2008

Lisbon And Me – My Final Decision?

Published by at 8:51 pm under Blog,Politics

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.

My Struggle

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?

Previous Posts

5. Lisbon and Me – Roche’s Reactionary Rant

4. Lisbon and Me – Consequences

3. Political Apathy and a Yearning for Change

2. Lisbon and Me – Deciding The Future

1. Lisbon and Me

20 responses so far

20 Responses to “Lisbon And Me – My Final Decision?”

  1. Joon 09 Jun 2008 at 10:08 pm

    Oh God, Darren, I was leaving towards not voting, but you’ve convinced me otherwise – I like the idea of pushing for a more user friendly packaging.

    So today I’ve read a Yes post http://www.allegedcomedian.blogspot.com

    and yours, and the IT cartoon from this weekend about not voting so I feel I have to vote, but my brain seems to go blank every time I try to assimilate info on the whole thing – I’m so impressed by your dedication! Please tell me you don’t have small children!

    Good Work.

  2. Stellaon 09 Jun 2008 at 10:14 pm

    Thanks for doing all the research and info gathering and giving us a breakdown of both sides of the debate. You put a lot of effort and work into it, fair dues to ya.

    I am staying with my decision from a few weeks back that i’m voting no, as is the majority of people I have spoke to on this topic, mostly for the same reason….. we haven’t a ducking clue what its all about and the govt seem to be pushing us to vote something through whilst offering only a huge lack of information. Its not because I agree or disagree with the changes that I am voting no, its because I don’t know what its about and am wary as to why we are being threatened into voting yes or it will be at our cost!

  3. Grandadon 10 Jun 2008 at 1:19 am

    Darren – I think you have put more into this than any of our “leaders”. I’d say you know more about it than they do? We all owe you one!

    I’ll be voting No. I’m not a Sinn Feiner, nor a Loony Left. I’m not anti-European or any of the things the Yes side are accusing me of being. Like yourself, I have looked at the issues and I posted my reasons last Friday.

    A huge responsibility has been put on our shoulders. As someone pointed out – each of us is voting on behalf of 100 other Europeans and there is a lot of disquiet [and fury] in the other countries where they are being denied their democratic right.

  4. Andrewon 10 Jun 2008 at 2:44 am

    Jaysus, I was gonna post a whiney little thing about why I was considering not voting at all and then you come along with this rather splendid yoke and make me realise I have to. And I think I will be voting No because I simply don’t understand it enough. As you’ve said before, there a chronic lack of information about what all this will really mean. Libertas and Sinn fein seem like a shower of wankers to me but the main parties have done an appalling job of informing people properly. I’m not sure if I buy into this ‘Ireland deserves a better deal’ stuff, but we certainly deserve to know what we’re voting on.

  5. McAWilliamson 10 Jun 2008 at 9:41 am

    I will also be voting no, for many reasons but mainly due to the fact I have seen interviews with the yes camp on tv and heard them on the radio and working in the media industry I would have to say their body language alone is one of fear.

    If they were so sure a yes vote was the right thing to do, you would think they might be more relaxed about it.

    Also Eamonn Gilmore who, as a child was the local politican in my area and is highly respected, was asked by Vincent Brown in a discussion about reducing the numbers of commissioners, why there was a need when Europe has worked fine since the enlargement, he ended up in true Vincent brown fashion being asked the same question 3 or 4 times cause he fobbed his way around it, by not answering the one simple question.

    This was not the Eamonn Gilmore I knew from growing up, and as such placed a lot of doubt in my mind, so much so it solidified my no vote.

    Fair play to you Darren for working relentlessly on this, I hope once Thursday comes you can chill out again.

  6. Catherineon 10 Jun 2008 at 9:52 am

    @Grandad – my boyfriend (who’s listed in the phone book) got a letter from a concerned Austrian lady last week! She wrote two handwritten pages about how lucky we are to have a vote on the matter, and outlining a few reasons why he should vote No. Have to wonder how many letters she sent!

  7. MJon 10 Jun 2008 at 10:24 am

    I really, really disagree with choosing a side to come down on when you haven’t been able to figure it out. It is as wrong to vote yes as to vote no if you don’t understand the treaty. You have a right to not vote, to submit a blank ballot and to spoil your wee biteen of paper. That would send a clear message that the two options are not worth considering, that the population is confused by the (a) lack of clarity from the YES camp, and (b) the scare-mongering by the NO camp. I have read the websites – the Referendum Commission’s info on it, you’re quite right Darren, is pants: http://www.lisbontreaty2008.ie/ – I have been looking at this one: http://ec.europa.eu which is a world better than the Irish one. It’s the European Commission’s info site on the treaty but they have lots of links to actual debates raging all over Europe, rather than just on our little Isle. There are lots of people saying that it’s nobody’s business but ours how we vote, and I can see the merit in that. The argument that we are the voice of the people of Europe is just as valid. No I’m not getting of the fence on that one. What’s most interesting on the EC’s website, is the status of the treaty elsewhere. I don’t think any of the pundits are talking enough about what the rest of Europe is thinking on this. Maybe I’m tuning into the wrong radio stations (Today FM, Newstalk & RTE1, no I’m not old, just boring!) and tellybox programmes (did you catch the catfight on Q&A last night? I’d say John B had to take 19 prozak afterwards!). What surprised me this morning [IrelandAM on TV3] was learning that Patricia McKenna has gone for a No vote. If anyone understands what goes on in Europe is an ex-MEP – unless of course she’s just peeved that Mary-Lou got her spot instead, last time round. You just don’t know what’s motivating people. I say if you don’t know – don’t go yes or no, spoil it or leave it blank; draw a clean line straight through both sides of the paper. That will tell them that neither side is satisfactory.

  8. Maryon 10 Jun 2008 at 10:42 am

    Darren, well done on looking into this so much and for making some of it more understandable & readable.

    I again will be standing by my decision of a few weeks ago and voting NO, again because I don’t fully understand what it’s about, because they seem to be using ‘bullyboy tactics’ to get a Yes Vote, ‘Vote Yes or Ireland will pay’ or something along those lines, and also and this is just my own personal view and feeling, I think that there is something in it that they don’t want us knowing about, as if we did we would vote NO, and if it was brought in & we found out about it, it would be to late to change anything.

    For every leader on the YES Campaign seeming to be on a bullying tactic, shows that they are afraid of it being voted no.

    Also something that Charlie McCreevy said about people not needing to understand it to vote YES, what the heck is that all about? Solicitors, Lawyers etc always always always tell you to read and be sure and happy about what you are signing before signing it, if you are unsure or unhappy about anything then don’t sign it and seek clarification, which is something that this government are not providing.

  9. Darrenon 10 Jun 2008 at 11:42 am

    @Jo Glad I was useful and no, I don’t have kids. I do have a slightly neglected girlfriend though.

    @Stella You’re not alone in your opinion. Many people just don’t have the full picture and are understandably wary.

    @Grandad Do they let people your age vote? You’re right though – we are the lone voice of Europe on this issue and we owe it to them as well as ourselves to get all the information in a simplified (as simplified as possible) manner that everyone can comprehend.

    @Andy Yep, the No-sayers are running an awful campaign too. Fear and explosive remarks are not going to gain them any respect.

    @McA Thank you. I’ve surprised myself by how much it has gotten under my skin.

    @Catherine That’s very weird!

    @MJ Do the spoiled votes get counted? I’d be interested to know if politicians really care about the spoiled ballots. I would imagine they would only examine them if a No vote came through. A Yes would see these ballots ignored. I’m just hypothesising – I don’t know really.

    @Mary I sincerely hope McCreevy made a mistake when he said that – it was a very irresponsible remark. How could we be expected to vote on something we don’t understand. Is he suggesting we just take the word of the politicians who tell us to vote Yes. Do I need to list the number of Irish politicians who have been proven to be corrupt liars? I’m not saying the current ones are, but I am suggesting we be wary and make sure to get as much information as possible.

  10. Brianon 10 Jun 2008 at 11:52 am

    Great research…congratulations. You should be on the Referendum Commission

    I’m pro Europe- more so than most…I would vote for a Federal Europe…But one based solidly on individual citizens rights and liberties

    For me the main problem with Lisbon is the manner in which the Irish politicians are trying to implement it. For example, Lisbon proposes obscure arrangements for police cooperation and other cooperation in areas of security, justice, etc. All these areas impinge on our human rights and individual liberties as citizens, which are strongly protected by our constitution. These areas are no business of the Oireachtas, under Irish constitutional law and the politiians have never been given- nor asked for outright-a mandate to interfere in these areas. But, by getting us to vote for Lisbon, –including the obscure references to Articles 1.22, 2.45..etc (I forget the numbers)- they in effect are getting us to vote to let the Dail and Seanad decide changes to those individual rights areas of the Constitution which heretofore can only be changed by the people themselves. They are in effect taking away our- many of our- individual liberties and citizens rights. Without spelling out which rights are at issue, but only by reference number to obscure proposals.

    So, for me its not an issue of what powers we might pass to Brussels, or EU, but, more importantly, what powers, currently reserved fpr our decision as citizens directly, we are to pass over to our politicians and bureaucrats

    Keep up the good work

    PS: Consider the right to privacy. Our Constitution protects it. Yet, the government introduces draconian data retention and surveillance legislation (pleading obligations under some EU treaty) and further has signed up to a Convention under which secret dossiers on Irish citizens can be demanded by any of tens of thousands of foreign officials, and must be prepared and handed over without the citizen being informed or without any knowledge of the courts.

    So, what value is our Constitutional protection of privacy if the government can feel they have the right to decide to “cooperate” with EU or not? They can always claim “treaty” obligations are superior to requirements under our Constitution..

  11. B'dum B'dumon 10 Jun 2008 at 1:00 pm

    well I just didn’t register.

  12. Darren.. tooon 10 Jun 2008 at 2:38 pm

    I’ll be voting no, on a number of grounds.
    Mainly they have the right to change the treaty how they choose if it is passed without consulting the people again, and because they just have not given me one example of how the new treaty will make things better. Not one account of a law they wanted to pass but couldn’t, or how a slow passing law effected so many people.

  13. B'dum B'dumon 11 Jun 2008 at 11:30 pm

    don’t suppose you seen newsnight tonight? it was about Ireland and the Lisbon Treaty.

  14. Marcas MacCaoimhínon 12 Jun 2008 at 2:56 pm

    I too am pro-european (whatever thats supposed to mean). Specifically I am in favour of a federal Europe that is completely democratic and its citizens have a real say in making the decisions that effect their lives. With the technology we have on offer today, we could revolutionise how we think about democracy and there is a real possibility for taking control of Europe, nay, the world’s wealth out of the hands of a few billionaires and putting it under the supervision of the majority. To begin this project we need to build a real opposition to the status quo both here and abroad. Ultimately we need to turn society on its head. Voting No to reactionary versions of Europe is a positive first step in this direction.
    For a Democratic Federal Europe!
    For majority control of the means of production and distribution!
    For a new workers movement to fight for a democratic socialist future!

  15. MJon 12 Jun 2008 at 7:09 pm

    I did a count once in Dublin South, the spoils get counted. Er-go… It still sends a message.

  16. Darrenon 13 Jun 2008 at 11:10 am

    @Brian Thank you for your considered response. I don’t see myself entering political life any time soon – the Ref Commission is a shambles already without me getting involved. And your point is a worrying one – our own government are asking us to place Europe’s future decisions in their hands and remove the power from the people. They claim this is more democratic – I don’t see how.

    @D2 Exactly! What are all the great changes the need to implement but can’t without Lisbon? Stupidness!

    @B’DumX2 I haven’t seen any TV in about a week. Haven’t been home very much. Anything interesting said?

    @Marcas I’m probably not as pro-Europe as you, but your points are well taken. There is no true opposition party in Irish politics and it will take a long and tough change in Irish society before we reach a point where we are offered some distinct differences in our parties.

  17. B'dum B'dumon 13 Jun 2008 at 2:16 pm

    I didn’t see it myself but I was told they just said that Ireland are selfish and have no right to any say in the EU after milking so much from it.

  18. Noelon 02 Oct 2009 at 3:46 pm

    “I really, really disagree with choosing a side to come down on when you haven’t been able to figure it out. It is as wrong to vote yes as to vote no if you don’t understand the treaty. You have a right to not vote, to submit a blank ballot and to spoil your wee biteen of paper. That would send a clear message that the two options are not worth considering, that the population is confused by the (a) lack of clarity from the YES camp, and (b) the scare-mongering by the NO camp.”

    @ MJ

    I disagree with you for a very simple reason. Voting yes on the Treay is voting to change something frrom what it is currently.

    Voting no is to keep things as they are.

    Why do you feel it is right to chose to change something, when you don’t know why you are changing it?

  19. MJon 02 Oct 2009 at 11:15 pm

    That was my very point last June Noel – if you don’t understand something, you shouldn’t vote. In order to make an informed decision & excercise your demographgic right to vote, you have to know what the changes are in the first place. I was suggesting that if you couldn’t make up your mind, then spoiling your vote – choosing neither yes nor no – was still an option.

    Spoiled votes are counted, and counted as such: spoiled votes.

  20. jayon 06 Oct 2009 at 11:00 pm


    cant i just show my disappointment on how our vote has went,still reeling after the votes were counted last weekend i have been scrambling the internet on information or laws to possibly undo this treaty in the future and stumbled across this site and read it,thought it would be rude not to comment after such an in-depth review!

    the people of ireland are cowards in my eyes,they to hide behind politicians as much as politions hide behind us,but by god in years to come all who reign now will seek to hide behind us forever when they realise what their country is in for and how it will change!

    i hope they regret it before (if not) on their death beds in many years

    i fear the only way this country can go up from now on is in fact to believe in the courage of sinn fein and not to abandon all self doubt when they are mentioned!
    they are after all our only political party to be brave and not hide behind the people,and that in my opinion deserves a bit of respect and one day if we ever…..ever decide not to be cowardly and stick up for our country which we all have failed to do for so long we will have our leaders to show us the way!!

    (but you’ll probably abandon any thought of it being this way as soon as you’ve finished reading,why is that)

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