Thursday 18 January 2018

Johnny Fallon: A comprehensive win for the Yes side, but this is no time for back slapping

THERE is no doubt about it, the fiscal treaty referendum was a convincing win for the ‘Yes’ side. The ‘No’ vote would appear to be steady enough with 600,000 people voicing their opposition. SF, the ULA and some other independents will certainly see this as a sign that their own vote is at least holding up.

This is no time for back slapping or recriminations however. Today has been marked by a certain smugness on the ‘Yes’ side that should be set aside. Equally the ‘No’ side seemed determined to continue the campaign still taking pot shots at the government and decrying the motives of the electorate. What all sides need to realise now is that the people have spoken. We are set on a path and must decide now what choices we should make along this way, not whether we should go back or change course.

The referendum itself has solved little and Europe has much bigger problems. A class divide is also evident in the voting. Let’s be clear however, it is not true to say that every working class area or person was voting NO nor is it true that all middle class or rural people voted yes. There is a sign however, that there is a pattern emerging between people who feel increasingly left behind and those who are increasingly trying to just stay ahead.

The rural vote was critical for the ‘Yes’ campaign. This vote will also demand a reward. Fine Gael TDs can expect significant pressure in the months ahead to change tack on issues and cuts that impact upon rural Ireland. In this sector more than any other did FG get a ‘lend’ of FF votes. FF who also backed a yes vote and therefore still hold appeal to this group will be watching what happens here with great interest. It will do little to ease the tensions already in existence between Fine Gael and Labour.

The other side of the coin is the urban vote. Labour desperately needs to do something to appease this vote. In better off areas of the city Labour are competing on the basis of personality against FG and FF. While FF was almost wiped out in the cities they will not have given up hope of returning. Labour knows that in these areas they have to try and differentiate themselves.

The real problem lies in less well off areas that voted ‘No’. The government needs to address this quickly and Labour in particular will need to figure out a way of convincing these people that government policy does have their interest at heart. FF will be scratching their head too, on the basis of this result they are not getting back the traditional working class seats they were once so proud of. Sinn Fein will see this as the bright spot in the result. This is the ground they need to focus on, hoovering up the votes, displacing other independent and socialist candidates and pushing Labour away from what should be its heartland.

The harsh reality is that most people just want the turf wars and blame games to end. They want answers and security. The yes vote was strong but it was often reluctant. Many stayed at home due to an inability to reach a decision. Fear played its part. That is no reason for those opposed to the treaty to dismiss the result however. The battle on social policy or rural divides can be talked up here at home but it will be won and lost in Europe. The people have given Enda Kenny a chance to lead and he must grasp it. Europe must make some tough decisions on debt and funding. Enda Kenny is the one European Leader who can now claim that he has backing and the only one who can say that these citizens understand the problem.

He must use that.

Whether the issue is bank debt, Eurobonds or even CAP reform, Ireland has decided it wants to remain with Europe that is what has been settled today and that must be recognised. What focus must now turn to is what exactly is the Europe that Ireland wants? Far too few seem to have the courage to articulate that. The ‘Yes’ campaigners have always said that this was not a solution it was merely a ‘step’. Now it’s time to decide what exactly it’s a step toward.

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