IT is no easy job explaining to a couple of French farmers, worried about the price of milk and changes to the CAP, why Ireland needed to have a second referendum on Lisbon.
But it is even more difficult to explain the relevance of the famous protocols.
In fairness, a referendum in France on the treaty may not have passed either -- contrariwise for going too far towards Europe or not going far enough.
The French are quite comfortable with an ever closer Europe, as long as they can run it. If not, they can shrug and continue doing things the French way without feeling any less communitaire than the next country.
What they cannot understand, secure in their essential Frenchness, is why anybody should get into a lather about things like neutrality, religion, family or abortion, which is why Sarkozy was so ready to provide Brian Cowen with whatever protocols he needed.
In the '90s, the process of securing acceptance in the ranks of the Downing Street Declaration and the Framework Document was sustained by repeated demands by Sinn Fein for clarification of what seemed to most others self-evident.
It was a ploy which gave the leadership time to round up the stragglers, enabled them, even, to claim small victories while the substance of the agreements remained unchanged.
Now that governments are at it, it all becomes more sophisticated, and the language with it: no longer mere clarifications, but protocols to the Lisbon Treaty.
The clarifications in this case are less an explanation of what is in the treaty, than an affirmation of what is not.
More nuanced it may be, but the question remains the same -- as does the treaty.
If that were to be changed substantially, there would be a need for re-ratification in all countries, including the 24 which have already done so -- and what a mess that would be. If the polls are to be believed, Lisbon will pass next time round, not particularly because the protocols have changed anything, but because the world has changed, utterly.
What was a cloud on the economic horizon a year ago is now a raging hurricane, and the Irish people will head for the nearest port, and known friends, in a storm.
Call it fear, if you will, but most will think of it as prudential realism.
What the protocols do not address, and which the research and the analysis studiously avoided, is the extent to which the 'No' vote (and more particularly the low turnout) represented a disillusionment with politics and politicians rather than a judgment on the issues, however presented.
Whether in the present circumstances people are more or less prepared to believe what politicians say to them by way of advocacy or clarification is open to doubt.
What the politicians should be concerned about is persuading more of the 50pc who did not vote last time that it is in their interest to do so.
The retention of the Irish commissioner, although not directly connected with Lisbon, is an important concession -- provided that he or she does not end up as commissioner for paperclips in an inflated and inefficient bureaucracy.
Apart altogether from the referendum, the protocols are of more interest sociologically than politically in what they tell of the schizophrenia on Irish political culture.
What the French cannot understand is how exception can be taken to a Charter of Fundamental Rights to the extent of derogating from parts of it.
Rights that are fundamental arise from the inherent dignity of the individual, or they are not fundamental rights. To require a clarification, and a declaration that some are dispensable, some less fundamental than others, is the ultimate contradiction in terms.
And what form of the family is it that requires protection?
Is it the family as defined in the Constitution -- that is the family of 1937, not the range of combinations which present themselves as stable relationships today when 40pc of children are born into quite a different manifestation of the family?
And in what particular way is the issue of abortion to be settled when the Oireachtas, through consistent failure to face up to the issue, has left the subject in a legal limbo -- and at a time, too, when the spiritual Limbo has been decommissioned by the theologians?
Neutrality is a subject not addressed in the Constitution (how the State commits to armed action is).
The subject has never been debated seriously, despite the change from world war to cold war to perestroika to international terrorism, to membership of the European Union or to the changes in position of other traditionally neutral countries.
What does a protocol protect the Irish people from in these indeterminate circumstances? At best, the protocols are a declaration that the Irish people can sort out these problems for themselves. But will they? Certainly not in a few weeks or months.
What we are left with, when the dust of Lisbon settles, is a catalogue of unresolved moral dilemmas which the Irish people continue to dodge, and which, despite the prodding of successive Supreme Court judgments and the relentless pace of social change, the Oireachtas has consistently avoided -- hoping, it seems, for an Irish solution to problems that are universal.