Thursday 27 October 2016

Brace yourself for bullying and threats

Fact-massaging and guilt will be the tools employed to sort out the treaty crisis, writes Gene Kerrigan

Published 22/06/2008 | 00:00

It was rude and unseemly when Government Minister Dick Roche called Patricia McKenna a liar. Otherwise, the fallout from the defeat of the Lisbon Treaty has been a good thing.

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Up to 10 days ago, there was a pretence that voting mattered. Now, the gloves are off, the teeth are bared. We didn't do as we were told -- and our betters are really pissed off at us.

It's so refreshing, this admission that democracy isn't all it's cracked up to be. Frankly, some of us think democracy is worth more than the hurt feelings of a bunch of inept politicians.

Here's Dick Roche on Morning Ireland on Thursday: "Not for the first time in this campaign, Ms McKenna has been completely and absolutely untruthful."

Wow, says I, he's calling her a liar. It was part of a constant drumbeat over the past 10 days -- that the Lisbon Treaty was defeated by lies.

Ms McKenna had stated that ratification of the proposed EU Constitution had stopped in 2005 after referendums in France and the Netherlands voted it down. In theory, if even one of the 27 EU nations fails to agree on such a major change, the matter has to be dropped.

Despite Ireland's vote, Ms McKenna pointed out, the big countries continue to urge ratification of the Lisbon Treaty.

"It is simply not the truth for her to say that ratification stopped in other countries [in 2005]," said Dick. "She knows that. She knows, for example, that Luxembourg had a referendum after France and the Netherlands."

Ms McKenna, according to a Government minister, is a liar. What's the record?

About a dozen countries ratified the constitution before the French and Dutch referendums in June 2005. Luxembourg had scheduled a referendum for July -- that referendum went ahead. It was a "consultative referendum". About 200,000 people voted and the yes side won by 25,000.

Mr Roche, with his Luxembourg "for example", insinuated that this was but the first of a wave of referendums in favour. It was, in fact, the only one. A day after the Dutch vote, the Latvian politicians ratified the constitution, without a referendum. Later, pointlessly, so did the politicians of Estonia, Finland, Cyprus and Malta. None dared put it to the vote of the people.

Five days after the Dutch vote, British Foreign Secretary Jack Straw said there was now "no point" ratifying the constitution and the UK shelved the matter. As did the Czech Republic, Denmark, Poland, Portugal and Sweden. As did Ireland.

In short, Patricia McKenna is not a liar. The French and Dutch votes killed the proposed EU constitution.

A trickle of politicians pretended it wasn't dead, but it was universally conceded that the consensus rule applied -- one out, all out. Unlike now.

Mr Roche didn't lie. He merely massaged the facts in order to call Ms McKenna a liar.

Over the past 10 days, the anger of the political establishment has been undisguised. Minister Martin Mansergh mused that they should perhaps curtail this referendum nonsense, as the electorate clearly isn't capable of dealing with complex matters.

An Irish Times columnist scornfully denounced young voters as "the most pampered, narcissistic and vacuous generation ever to enter an Irish polling booth".

Boy, is the establishment pissed off or what?

The RTE lads are on board. Half jocularly, wholly in earnest, they told us that, thanks to the benevolence of Mr Sarkozy and friends, "we haven't been kicked out of the European Union". Thereby suggesting that that was a possible consequence of voting no.

Boy oh boy, they tell us, the EU bigwigs could have kicked our asses. Instead, they provided Brian with photos ops in which he and Micheal Martin stared sheepishly at their feet, while the EU mandarins offered rigid smiles, patted them on the back -- and gave them three months to come up with a plan to reverse the vote.

Or else.

Over those three months the propaganda will be relentless, from our embarrassed politicians, from the EU mandarins -- and from a media that is unashamedly on message. Public money will be used for secret polls and focus groups to figure out how to manipulate us.

The fact-massage will continue. The Lisbon Treaty, they tell us, was eight years in the making, and we selfish Irish killed it.

Not true. A declaration of intent was made only in March 2007 and the treaty text was finished on June 4, 2007. It was an effort to push through, in another form, the EU Constitution killed by French and Dutch voters in 2005.

"One ten-thousandth of the EU's population has applied the brakes to the will of the overwhelming majority," we're told, in tones that suggest we should be ashamed of ourselves.

It's not true. The Lisbon Treaty has been ratified by European politicians in 19 countries, who number perhaps 5,000, as against the 862,000 Irish voters who shot it down.

The treaty simply cannot be renegotiated, we're told. Simultaneously, it's conceded that it is indeed possible to retain the 27 commissioners -- something we were assured was irreversibly gone.

We're isolated in Europe, we're told -- a bunch of ungrateful wretches. Except for the Czech Republic, whose citizens just may get to vote on the treaty. And the UK, where a judge is to rule next week if a referendum is required. And most other countries in Europe, where the mandarins hunger for a treaty they believe would be shot down by their citizens.

The mandarins seek some kind of United States of Europe. It's a valid aim for many, perhaps even a desirable one. Democracy, however, isn't an optional extra. And democracy isn't just a fairer way of doing things. It's a mechanism without which you end up in trouble.

Under democracy, you state a position and seek to win people to it. If you win that commitment, the thing works. People understand what is happening and feel part of it. Without that democratic understanding and commitment, people vote according to all sorts of motives, some more laudable -- in my opinion -- than others.

Democracy is difficult. So, our politicians seek to sneak their way to some form of Greater Europe, using a pastiche of democracy.

In the arrogant, contemptuous and contemptible words of French politician Valery Giscard d'Estaing, "Public opinion will be led to adopt, without knowing it, the proposals we dare not present to them directly".

This would be unacceptable, whoever ruled Europe. In the Europe of Sarkozy, Merkel, Berlusconi and Brown, we're heading for a centralised, militarised entity, where workers rights and public services exist merely to be sneered at.

Having taken the undemocratic route, the EU mandarins have hit a democratic pothole in Ireland and the wheels have come off. Exposed, they lack the moral authority of even a gombeen county councillor. So, the bullying, threats and fact-massaging will be ratcheted up over the next few months.

Any doubts about the nature of the Europe these people envision was blown away last week. It's a Europe in which the citizens get to vote on things that don't matter much -- such as MEPs. And when a more significant vote is unavoidable, national leaders, such as Brian Cowen, are required to deliver the goods, whatever is in the treaty (which is why so many don't bother to read it).

Cowen's mistake was putting two boxes on the ballot paper. One for Yes and one for No. Apparently, there should have been just one box -- vote Yes. Any other result is, in some unexplained way, illegitimate.

The result must be scrubbed, the electorate must be made feel guilty, threatened and bullied.

Eventually, they may understand that in our Brave New Europe, the box that says No is merely for cosmetic purposes.

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