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Lise Hand: Lisbon Treaty III is lurking in the wings like a pantomime villain

DEMOCRACY is the new black. It's all the rage these days among fashionable heads of government, among Europhiles and Eurosceptics alike, as it's paraded up and down the catwalks of Brussels and Berlin.

There is so much democracy flying about that one barely knows where to look. The Mighty Merkozy wants a new treaty in the name of democracy, while David Cameron took home his ball from the EU death-match on Friday because he reckoned the Merkel-Sarkozy brand of democracy was bad for Britain.

And then there is our own intrepid duo, Enda and Eamon. What a pickle this democracy fad has landed them in. For all this talk of deploying the democratic process in order to save the wobbly euro looks likely to land the Irish Government with a prospect more nightmarish than opening one's front door to find Hannibal Lecter waving a bottle of Chianti.

For Enda and Eamon may just have to give democracy another day out, in the ghastly shape of having to hold a third referendum on the Lisbon Treaty next year. Although the Taoiseach managed to kick it to touch with a boot that would've done Johnny Sexton proud, by announcing that the whole thorny issue is now being examined by the Government's top legal eagle, the attorney-general, it's still lurking in the wings like a Christmas panto villain.

Nor was there was any escape from democracy for the Tanaiste yesterday when his first duty of the week was to attend the launch of a report on democracy by independent group, We the Citizens, which took a citizens' assembly out for a test-drive over last summer.

The group produced a rather sleek and shiny report on their findings which they were eager to present to the Tanaiste when he turned up at the National Library yesterday morning.

But it was the spectre of European reform being foisted upon Us the Citizens that was the focus of the questions put to Eamon upon his arrival.

Were the printing presses of the Oireachtas already busily producing ballot papers for yet another Lisbon referendum?

Unlike the coalition of David Cameron and Nick Clegg, which is in bad shape since the British prime minister dusted off his veto in Brussels without his deputy's say-so, Eamon and Enda are still humming from the same hymn-sheet on this issue, and the Tanaiste also kicked Lisbon into touch.

"First of all we have to see the agreement actually concluded yet, because where we're at with this is it's a political statement which was agreed with the leaders of the European Union, or most of them, on Thursday of Friday, and that now has to be worked up into an agreement," he explained. But surely anyone with a titter of wit must realise that a referendum on Europe would find as much favour among the people of Ireland as would a ban on travel to Poland and the Ukraine next June?

Eamon strapped on his brave face. "In certain circumstances if an agreement requires a referendum then we'll have a referendum, that isn't an issue," he declared, although every government TD would prefer a poke in the eye with a sharp stick to having to sell Lisbon III to the electorate.

The Tanaiste then posed for photos with the principals of We the Citizens but he didn't go into the launch itself. Maybe he'd had enough of democracy for the day -- or perhaps he wanted to paraphrase St Augustine: "Lord, make me democratic, but not yet."

Irish Independent