My letter below on the subject of the significance of the Irish rejection of the Lisbon Treaty appeared in this week's Galway City Tribune:
While working in Poland in the days immediately after the referendum, I was pleasantly surprised at the amount of Polish people who, upon discovering that I and my colleagues were Irish, came forward to shake our hands in appreciation for Ireland voting against the Lisbon Treaty.
Thanks to Bunreacht na hÉireann, we were able to stand up for the rights of all Europeans to have the final say in the political re-structuring of Europe and have exposed in the process the serious democratic deficit that sadly is now appearing in the EU governing infrastructure. Greater efficiency for EU administration should not be secured by sacrificing the rights of ordinary European citizens to have a real say in shaping their own destiny. It is frightening to realise that, where it not for the safeguards built into our own constitution, the Lisbon Treaty would have been voted through Dail Éireann by politicians of all hues. It is even more astonishing to know that the inhabitants of no other EU state have this constitutional protection. If they did, there is no doubt that other countries would have said ‘No’ just as France and the Netherlands did in 2005 in what was then called the ‘EU Constitution’ but subsequently repackaged as a ‘Treaty’ to deny the peoples of other countries the right to vote on its acceptance. It was our former Taoiseach Bertie Ahern that had the honesty to confirm that there was a 90% overlap between both documents.
Many voters rightly expressed anger at the legalistic, bureaucratic and technical terminology of a 400 page Treaty that represented the most un-intelligible document ever put before a European electorate. It is even more chilling to know that this was a deliberate ploy. For according to one of its prime architects, former French President Giscard d’Estaing, this was necessary in order to hide its true meaning and avoid referenda in the other EU countries.
The belief that the need to ask the Irish people to vote was considered a necessary evil by the establishment that had to be suffered (but which never again would have to be undertaken if the Treaty was passed and subsequently needed changing) was reinforced by what can only be described as displays of arrogance prior to the referendum by our Taoiseach telling us that he had not read the Treaty that we were to vote on; and by our European Commissioner stating that only a lunatic would bother reading it in its entirety!
So rather than be embarrassed at the Irish people’s decision, the government should have the pride and the moral courage to tell other governments of their own lack of a democratic mandate to say ‘Yes to Lisbon’. Giving the impression that the Irish have somehow betrayed Europe and should display a collective sense of national humiliation is wholly unjustified.
Membership of the European community has been extremely positive for Ireland in areas such as industry, education, the environment and social justice. Whilst many of the Lisbon Treaty’s clauses were beneficial to the rights of individuals, peoples and states, others were anathema to our society. For instance getting us to increase our military budget, support Euratom and finally accept the loss of a full time Irish Commissioner is not what one would expect from what is supposed to be a community of sovereign and equal democratic states.
Furthermore the behaviour of EU Commissioner Mandelson in the last few months was a portent of what we could expect in the future. For where is the economic, social or environmental benefits in forcing Ireland to be opened to cheaper less regulated farm foodstuffs produced by small South American elites who are enthusiastically destroying the rainforests in their greed to expand their own huge ranches and enormous riches?
Fair play to the Irish for showing that the final decision in shaping the EU should lie with the ordinary citizens of Europe and not with its politicians. For we do not want to experience a new version of an over-centralised and undemocratic super state that was the Soviet Union.