Ireland and Lisbon

Green Light for Lisbon

Apologies for the unoriginal pun in the title. The Irish Green Party held a convention on Saturday which narrowly voted to support the Lisbon Treaty in the referendum on 2nd October. Actually, the vote was not that narrow in numbers – 214 votes to 107, with two abstentions – but the constitutution of the party requires a two third majority for a decision of this kind, and that was exactly the majority for a Yes vote. One less vote for or one more against and the motion would have been lost.

Yesterday, another important group, the Executive Council of the Irish Farmers Association, also decided to support the Treaty.

Before the first referendum, a number of interest groups did not directly oppose the Treaty, and even nominally supported it, but made vague threatening noises about it – along the lines of saying “our members are very upset about some current issue and if our demands are not met they may be tempted to vote against Lisbon….” The problem of this approach was that when their specific demands were not met it was difficult for the interest groups to turn around with any credibility and say “Oh,well OK, our members will vote for the Treaty anyway”.

Farmers voted strongly against the Treaty first time around. This was like turkeys voting for Christmas – a rejection of the Lisbon Treaty would not bring more EU support for Irish farmers..

Irish farmers are currently protesting nation-wide against cut-backs in agricultural supports and other issues. It is therefore significant that the farmers’ representatives have made a distinction between their immediate concerns and their long-term interest, which they see as better served by a Yes vote on the Lisbon Treaty.

This time around it seems there will be fewer interest groups who try to use the Treaty vote as a “hostage” for their own sectoral demands.

That still leaves the vintners (pub-owners) who have clearly decided to add a note of farce to the debate. They strongly oppose a recommendation to the government to reduce the legal blood-alcohol level for drivers from 80 to 50 mg (and to 20mg for inexperienced drivers).

Here is an extract from today’s Irish Times on the web:

“The Vintners’ Federation of Ireland (VFI) claims that plans to reduce the amount of alcohol that can be legally consumed before driving could make people vote ‘No’ in the second referendum held on the treaty in Ireland in as many years…. Speaking on Newstalk radio today, VFI chief executive Padraig Cribben suggested “people in rural Ireland will see this as more of the nanny statism, and it probably would affect the way they might consider voting in respect of the Lisbon treaty”.

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