Ireland and Lisbon

I said earlier that I might do an occasional post on the theme of “With Friends like this, who needs enemies?” I hoped I would not have to. Unfortunately Commissioner McCreevy joined the debate.

The No websites are giving great prominence to the Commissioner’s statement in June that 95% of the member states would have rejected the Lisbon Treaty if it had been put to a vote.

He was making, or trying to make, the valid point that heads of state in other member states were politicians who understood the political complexities of securing support for the Lisbon Treaty in Ireland. He contrasted their realism with the “shock and horror” response to the first referendum by the “fonctionnaires” who live within the Brussels “beltway”.

Mr Mc Creevy has some things to his credit in his career, notably his relatively early hostility to the disgraced former Taoiseach, Charles Haughey. However, the desire to be seen as a “plain speaker” is not always consistent with good judgement.

It is ludicrously implausible to claim to know how 26 countries would have voted in referenda that were never actually held. The claim that 95% would have voted No is sheer fantasy and not a realistic political judgement.

It is of course perfectly possible that some other member states might have voted No in a referendum, but this is beside the point – they did not have a referendum. This does not make them any less democratic than Ireland. I’m glad we have a system of constitutional referenda in Ireland but I accept that other member states do things differently. For political, cultural and historic reasons, EU member states approach these questions differently, each in their own way, but they are all democratic.

One may argue for or against the Treaty, and for or against the holding of a referendum, but it is nonsense to dismiss the decision-making procedure in the member states as being simply “undemocratic”.

The Commissioner’s remarks were both wrong and irrelevant.END

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  1. (very good preview function on this blog – wish more blogs could be set up like this!)

    The question of when referendums should or should not be held is an interesting topic:
    For example, the media always think it’s a sign of great democracy when “free votes” without party whips are held in parliaments – yet the whole point of parliamentary democracy is voting along party lines.

    People (at least in theory) vote for certain parties with certain ideologies = if that ideology holds together, then ‘whipping’ is rarely a problem.

    If diversity within a party makes whipping difficult, then instead of free vote, referendums are more democratic: a few hundred parliamentarians are hardly representative of public opinion.

    As for the Lisbon Treaty ratification, it could overall certainly have been handled better, in my opinion.

    Tongue-in-cheek, but nevertheless….

    An Irish Bedtime Story for all Nice Children and not so Maastricht Adults

    The Happy Family

    Once upon a time there was a family treaty-ing themselves to a visit in Lisbon.
    On the sunny day that it was they decided to go out together.
    Everyone had to agree on what they would do.
    “So”, said Daddy Brusselsprout “Let’s all go for a picnic!”
    “No”, said Aunt Erin, “I don’t want to”.
    Did they then think of something else, that they might indeed agree on?
    Oh yes they did?
    Oh no they didn’t!
    Daddy Brusselsprout asked all the others anyway, isolating Erin, and then asked her if instead, she would like to go with them to the park and eat out of a lunch basket….

    Kids, we’ll finish this story tomorrow, and remember, in the EU yes means yes and no means yes as well!

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