| 10°C Dublin

David Quinn: Ganley support for move to federal Europe is old news

A pig flew by my window the other day. It came in the form of an editorial in 'The Irish Times' praising Declan Ganley. What next, one praising Charlie Haughey?

'The Irish Times' is the paper that as well as RTE unleashed the dogs of war on Mr Ganley because of his opposition to the Lisbon Treaty. So did virtually the entire political establishment.

His life and his business dealings were turned inside and out. He was painted as a sort of James Bond super-villain, Blofeld with a London accent.

He was an agent of the US military-industrial complex. 'Prime Time' did a hatchet job on him.

Whereas organisations such as the Pat Cox-headed Ireland for Europe, which supported the Lisbon Treaty, were asked few if any questions about their funding, Mr Ganley was hounded over the funding for his organisation Libertas.

What vested interests were behind Mr Ganley? It might equally have been asked what vested interests were behind Ireland for Europe, and other similar organisations.

One senior Irish politician described Mr Ganley as "a liar, a self-employed mythologiser, a snake-oil salesman".

The European Parliament instructed the Irish Government to investigate him.

BBC correspondent Mark Mardell reported on the widespread outbreak of paranoiac fantasies at the most senior levels of the EU about Mr Ganley.

'The Irish Times' "outed" Mr Ganley's supporters when it published the guest list of a dinner he hosted around the time of the first Lisbon campaign.

Most of the guests were private citizens who woke up to find their names made public in an environment in which Mr Ganley and all associated with him were being portrayed as enemies of the State.

In fact, Libertas complied with the funding requirements of the Standards in Public Office Commission, as did Ireland for Europe.

And if the US 'military-industrial complex' was behind Mr Ganley because it wanted to bring the EU project down in flames, then why did huge multi-billion dollar corporations with offices in Ireland, such as Intel and Microsoft, that do business with the US military, come out in favour of the Lisbon Treaty?

But who the hell knows, because the case against Mr Ganley never made any sense. All that mattered was that his enemies had mud to throw at him and were determined to make some of it stick. It was not Irish politics', or the Irish media's, finest hour.

But now Mr Ganley has declared himself in favour of a federal Europe and this is why 'The Irish Times' has praised him. It says that Mr Ganley's endorsement of the idea "has surprised many given his previous campaigning against the Lisbon Treaty".

Actually, it's not really a surprise at all because anyone who watched him closely and listened to him closely would have known that his objections to the Lisbon Treaty were never inspired by an anti-EU agenda. In other words, Mr Ganley was never a europhobe as he was made out to be, even if some of his supporters were.

Mr Ganley was against Lisbon because he believed it was anti-democratic. He believed it gave too much power to the big states like France and Germany, too much power to the unelected European Commission, and that it should have allowed for a directly elected president of the European Union, similar to the American president.

His support for a federal Europe is entirely consistent with the reasons why he was opposed to the Lisbon Treaty. He wanted a democratic EU, not an undemocratic one.

We can, of course, argue 'til the cows come home as to whether or not a more federal Europe would really enhance democracy or whether it would make more sense to devolve more power back to the member states, as, say, Britain, wants.

But the big point I want to make here is different and it is that Declan Ganley was primarily a victim of the tendency of our media and of our politics to see the world in extremely simplistic terms.

In every story there must be a hero and a villain and the villain -- that is the enemy of whatever it is we have deemed 'good' and 'progressive' -- must be painted in the blackest way possible.

Also, there can only be two radically opposed positions on any given issue. Therefore, as in this case, you are either totally in favour of the EU or totally against it. You cannot be in favour of the EU but against the Lisbon Treaty simply because you think it's a bad treaty.

So the real lesson of this isn't that Mr Ganley had a sudden conversion to the European project -- because he was always in favour of that.

No, the real lesson is that he was a victim of the cartoonish way in which we regularly cover matters of public debate and it is this we need to change, not him.

Irish Independent