September 24, 2009
I spent much of the past week in Ireland in Dublin, Clare and Galway. There were more Yes than No posters wherever I went, apart from teh outskirts of Limerick. This is in sharp contrast to the last time around, when the No posters dominated the scene. I have to say however that the No posters are more eye-catching with their simplistic, and wrong, claims. Disgracefully, Coir now imply that ratification of the Lisbon Treaty will bring abortion and euthanasia to Ireland. A claim like this, however wrong, is bound to attract more atention than a claim about the undoubted but somewhat diffuse benefits of the Lisbon treaty.
However some more sane voices are responding. The Catholic Bishops issued a clear unambiguous statement that Catholics could vote Yes or No in good conscience. (Coir take the view that the bishops do not know what they are talking about…) There is a bad history of bishops interfering in political matters in Ireland but this latest statement is acceptable. It is neutral on the core political issue and merely responds to those on the No side who have raised the issue of morality.
It seems too that farmers’ support for the Lisbon treaty is holding firm at around 70 % and perhaps even growing. Farmers were an important element among the No voters last time around.
Editorially, the main Irish newspapers tend to support a Yes vote although of course they report both sides of the campaign, albeit in a biased way according to many on the No side. On radio and TV, the No side is given prominence far in excess of its weight, in my view, but this reflects the fact the they are required in effect to give equal weight to both sides. Still, it is a bit frustrating to hear a more or less reasoned argument for the Yes side “balanced” by an outrageous and false claim.
A number of English newspapers, mostly tabloids, have Irish editions and these are very widely read in Ireland – printed at marginal cost, they are relatively cheap. These papers tend to reflect a strain of English euroscepticism and their owners’ antipathy towards the EU.
On the reasonable side is the Referendum Commission set up to pubicise the referendum and to offer independent advice and information about the Treaty. The Chairman, High Judge Frank Clark is playing a very pro-active role, apprearing frequently in the media and issuing very clear statements about certain misinterpretations of the Treaty. He has said correctly, for example, that the EU has no competence in setting the minimum wage in Ireland. He has also said, correctly, that claims about the effects of the Lisbon Treaty on jobs in Ireland are political claims, on which he has no opinon to offer.The Commission’s website on the Treaty is well worth seeing – at http://www.lisbontreaty2009.ie/Author : Jim Murray