Friday 15 December 2017

The perils of the ignorant deciding the unknowable

Our referendums have too often been sordid and confused affairs, writes John-Paul McCarthy

John-Paul McCarthy

WATCHING the Taoiseach cower behind his Attorney-General last week as another poisonous plebiscite shuddered into view, I thought of Brecht's joke.

Brecht, despairing at the Nazis' ability to manipulate popular prejudice through sledge-hammer referendums, asked "would it not be easier, in that case, for the government to dissolve the people and elect another?"

The Taoiseach's private reluctance to put the extraordinarily complicated EU fiscal pact to a referendum makes sound Brechtian sense, but it also draws on 70 years of unhappy domestic precedent.

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