Ireland and Lisbon

“Ireland should vote for Lisbon out of gratitude to the EU”. Few would put it as directly as that but I met some who felt that the Irish people were ungrateful to vote No in the first referendum. This is a bad argument. In my view, it is not valid and it is not persuasive.

If the Irish would vote out of gratitude, how many others should join them? French farmers have done well (maybe not as well as they might like) from the CAP. Spanish fishermen gained access to more fishing grounds, whatever the current problems there. Many businesses have gained from the single market. Many workers have gained new rights. People in many new member states value the resumption of closer ties with Western Europe, denied to them for so long. The EU has been good for Europe – which is to say that it has been good for most Europeans. In that sense there is a long list of people with reasons to be grateful. Some feel grateful and some do not but few would vote merely out of gratitude.

Of course the past is not irrelevant, and there are good reasons for voting for Lisbon on the basis of past experience – but gratitude is not one of them

Most Irish people, including many No voters, support the EU. Irish people contribute much to the EU and value the benefits that flow from membership – but the Lisbon Treaty is a plan for the future and not an assessment of the past.

There is an Irish saying that sums up one aspect of human nature, and not just in Ireland: “Eaten bread is soon forgotten”.

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