| 6.4°C Dublin

Ganley's grand plan at least has us moving forward

Declan Ganley's dream of a federal Europe may become a reality quicker than many of his detractors suspect, writes Jody Corcoran

WHO said this, three years ago, shortly after the defeat of the Lisbon Treaty, before the second referendum? "I voted for the Nice Treaty. Why? I'm pro-European."

It could have been any of our europhiles, right? Take your pick: Pat Cox, John Bruton, Lucinda Creighton, or, indeed, most politicians of the three main parties, Fine Gael, Fianna Fail and Labour.

The same person said this: "I am in awe of the miracle peace process that took place post-World War Two in Europe."

This, he said, was arguably one of the most successful peace processes the world had seen. "Indeed, if all that the European Union has done is preserve this process, then that alone makes it worthy of our support."

And he also said this: "Laws of the EU have primacy over those of the member state: that is called subjugation. I don't have a problem with that, even with subjugation."

Wow. How europhile do you want to get?

You need to go to Brussels, to walk around, to understand that there will be no going back, only forward. I did that for the first and only time shortly after the defeat of the Lisbon treaty.

Brussels is impressive when you get to know your way around, not the streets, but the bureaucracy. It could take you years to find your way, in fact, and still you might occasionally get lost, such is the bureaucracy.

At the end of a busy day, over a light beer with one of our arch-europhiles, I asked why they didn't go the whole hog and admit that what they really wanted was a federal Europe, a United States of Europe. The arch-europhile suggested that "the people" were not yet ready for that.

So are they ready now? Last week Declan Ganley, of all people, finally put the notion of a federal Europe, a USE, on the agenda.

Again, you may wonder, why now? Well, the Europe of 2012 is vastly different to the Europe of 2009, when the person quoted above disclosed that he did not have a problem with subjugation by Europe, but that his difficulty was the lack of democracy at the heart of Europe.

So who was that person? It was Declan Ganley, actually.

He made his comments in a discussion under the heading 'A Vision for a New Europe', which was hosted by The Henry Jackson Society in London on February 10, 2009.

The society is a cross-partisan, British-based think-tank whose founders and supporters declare themselves to be united by a common interest.

The common interest is to foster a strong British and European commitment towards "freedom, liberty, constitutional democracy, human rights, governmental and institutional reform and a robust foreign, security and defence policy and transatlantic alliance".

There is nothing wrong with freedom, liberty, human rights and reform, you may think, but -- Ireland being Ireland -- most people here would quake at the notion of a common security and defence policy and a transatlantic alliance.

Not that that will come to pass. Well, not yet anyway. . .

According to Wikipedia, the society's statement of principles has been publicly signed by members of parliament in the UK: Michael Ancram, Michael Gove, Edward Vaizey, David Willetts, Denis MacShane, Fabian Hamilton and Gisela Stuart are identified.

It is also signed by former MPs David Trimble, Jackie Lawrence and Greg Pope, and by former soldiers Jonny Gray and Tim Collins.

You may remember Tim Collins. He was the Commanding Officer of the 1st Battalion, Royal Irish Regiment of the British Army, who gave a rousing eve-of-battle speech to his troops in Kuwait: "We go to Iraq to liberate not to conquer. . ."

The statement of principles is also signed by Sir Richard Dearlove, former head of the British Secret Intelligence Service, and the American economist Irwin Stelzer.

Its patrons include Richard Perle, William Kristol, James Woolsey (former director of the CIA), and Tsakhiagiin Elbegdorj, President of Mongolia, of all places.

In other words, The Henry Jackson Society is a conspiracy theorist's wet dream. But let us leave the conspiracies to one side, where, generally speaking, they should be left.

The point is that Ganley's speech reflected, in passages almost word for word, his statement of intent last weekend to re-enter public and political life with a new pan-European organisation which will advocate a United States of Europe.

Curiously, Ganley's latest foray seems to have caused a form of head-scratching here, the seriousness of his intent apparently open to question -- or rather, the grandiosity of it, perhaps.

But this is Europe 2012. Everything has changed, is changing, or is about to change. His dream may become a reality quicker than many of his detractors probably suspect.

It could be said that it is only those who never fully grasped what Ganley, and Libertas, was about who now seem to be so surprised.

He is primarily about addressing what is referred to as the democratic deficit at the heart of Europe, the flaw at the rotting core of what was always a beautiful project.

He laid out his grand plan last weekend, in an article co-authored by Brendan Simms, a professor of history of European international relations at Cambridge University.

Simms also serves as the co-president of The Henry Jackson Society, which, as I have said, advocates the view that supporting and promoting liberal democracy should be an integral part of Western foreign policy.

A full version of the Ganley/ Simms vision is available on the website of the newspaper in which it was published: www.businesspost.ie.

Here is the carrot: a President of Europe by popular democratic election, weighted in an electoral college-type format so that smaller member state voters are not made irrelevant; a senate with four representatives of each state, each holding equal voting power; a full insolvency purge of all European financial institutions; a liquidation and asset sale of all unhealthy institutions; and a writedown of significant size of all EU member state debts.

"Anything less than a democratic federalisation. . . will result in failure and a loss of confidence in European unity that may lead to this continent turning back the clock 100 years.

"The price is worth paying, the risk worth taking. As Europeans we should seize this moment in history while always guarding our right to government by consent, essential to maintain our individual liberty, which can never be negotiable."

Ever wished, in a dull moment, Fintan O'Toole asked last November, that you could have lived through some of the big moments of European history? Well, be careful what you wish for, he said, we're living through one of them now.

He argued that two of the big shaping forces of western Europe, capitalism and democracy, had clearly fallen apart.

The Ganley/Simms vision seeks to put them back together, to solder them forever in a way that they have never been before, not in Europe anyway.

It is, at the very least, a right-of-centre vision. Others will have their own vision, equally grandiose, but less easily applicable to the market forces still in place, still dominant.

On the home front, Ganley has also set in place the building blocks for a new political organisation, which will test the will of the people in the European elections in 2014.

There are others, at his place in the spectrum, who have been toying with this idea for some time now: Michael McDowell, the former PD leader, is closely watched, his intentions not fully known other than it seems certain he sees a market in the gap again; Sean Gallagher has shown there to be such a market; Shane Ross is often mentioned, if he can look beyond himself; Stephen Donnelly is in that gap too.

Pat Cox recently joined Fine Gael, but could leave again just as quickly, and take with him in a year or two more than a few of those who have been disenfranchised under the Enda Kenny regime of austerity.

Fianna Fail, under Micheal Martin, seems intent on moving in the opposite direction, but may be more productive mining the victims of that austerity, primarily those who live and die in the private sector.

As yet a figurehead has to emerge, an individual under which they may all rally.

Ganley set out a little of his credentials to The Henry Jackson Society three years ago: "I am the product of parents from Western Ireland, of the tragedy of emigration. Indeed, scars were left by the Irish famine on my own family; 166 people in my village died from starvation at that time. My 97-year- old grandmother ended up picking potatoes as a farm labourer in Scotland aged 14, having left Ireland. She moved up in the world and became a maid in London, but the Blitz caused her to move back to Ireland, which was when she met my grandad.

"My grandad was born in Manchester, and two of his uncles were killed in Irish regiments in the First World War. In the same war, my wife's grandfather wore the grey uniform of the Austrian army because of his Polish roots. Poland, at the time, was part of the Austro-Hungarian Empire. He was taken as a prisoner of war and when the fighting was over, he emigrated to the USA. My wife's father was a US marine. My children come from the glory and tragedy that is the history of Europe."

In any event, let us be grateful to Mr Ganley. The debate has been joined. There will be no going back, only forward.

Sunday Independent