Monday 17 June 2019

We are going to the polls in the shadow of 'Yes' lies

Fear, lies and an array of blatant illegalities by the Irish Government and by Europe have characterised the 'Yes' campaign in the repeat referendum on which we vote tomorrow. Though the 'No' campaign has also produced dishonesty and misrepresentation, it has not had the capacity to invoke or spread fear amongst Irish people. Its lies have been the subject of much more open and aggressive debate than those coming from the 'Yes' side. And it has simply not been able to engage in the kind of illegalities in which the European Commission and the European Parliament have engaged, nor has it had the political and public access to power that has led to abuse from the State itself.

The result has been a momentous division in this society, which began immediately after the June 2008 referendum result, when Brian Cowen deliberately and unconstitutionally turned his back on almost a million voters who decided what he had asked them to decide. He opened a breach in our democracy and he and his foreign affairs minister began a process of undermining the people who had so voted.

The two main opposition parties had joined ineffectually and inadequately with him before the first referendum and the combination of the three main political parties in the State had been insufficient to defeat the mixed group of 'No'-side organisations. In so doing, the parties abandoned their opposition role -- this was to oppose and question government actions.

The main parties combined for the rerun of the referendum. This presented a formidable phalanx, collectively guilty of worse and more widespread illegalities. The opposition parties were comfortably detached from what was done at government inspiration, but this was no excuse for their inaction in protecting the State's constitution and Europe's laws and for their using European money.

The social, moral and political division that results from this will not be easily forgiven or forgotten.

Fear has been engendered by wrong interpretations of what the Lisbon Treaty can or cannot do. We know it cannot give us jobs. Yet this has been a 'Yes' vote weapon of propaganda, repeatedly used throughout the campaign.

The Lisbon Treaty cannot put us at the heart of Europe, a ridiculous concept anyway, nor can it mend our economy. Europe can help, but Europe can and will do that under the Nice Treaty, for which we voted in June 2008. We can ourselves create jobs and mend the economy. Europe will help in that and will not engage in vengeful repudiation of Ireland, whichever way we vote. There have been lies to the contrary, suggesting we will be made to suffer if we vote no again. It is claimed Europe will become two-tier; this is entirely dishonest.

Of the many illegalities, the latest and most blatant was the placing of a European Commission propaganda supplement in all Irish newspapers last Sunday as a paid insert. This was an unlawful use of European taxpayers' money. The commission has no competence in the ratification of treaties. Moreover, it presented not only profoundly unbalanced views but also misleading information.

It said the Nice Treaty did not protect the concept of a commissioner for each state and Lisbon will. This is not true. If we vote no, European Law says we have one commissioner for each state. Proposals for change lie in the future.

It is inconceivable that the commission would not know this. Yet it lied last Sunday. Whatever we change has to be unanimous, under Nice. That was one result of voting no last June. All that is in Nice is not all in Lisbon.

So the commission intruded unlawfully into our referendum campaign and then lied, making its propaganda supplement last Sunday into a work of fiction. We are expected to trust the European Council's promises through 'declarations' and 'protocols', guided by the commission. Yet the commission told the people lies last Sunday. The commission concealed or disguised crucial information on new taxes which the EU itself could impose and on the Lisbon Treaty requirement that member states should 'progressively improve their military capabilities'. And there was no word on the treaty's most important change, the shift of voting power from small to big member states. We are paying, through our own taxes, for this misinformation.

I have written already about the White Paper on the Lisbon Treaty, which was misleading in its information. I anticipated the Referendum Commission might have had something to say on this. No such corrective was forthcoming.

Other illegalities include the part-funding of the posters and press advertisements of most of Ireland's 'Yes'-side political parties by their sister parties in the European Parliament.

This is illegal under Irish law. So, too, was the Government's use of public funds to circulate to voters a postcard with details of 'assurances' and then a brochure doing much the same as the commission did last Sunday, and with as much indifference to the truth. This breached the Supreme Court's 1995 McKenna judgment, that it is unconstitutional for the Government to use public money to seek to procure a particular result in a referendum.

Anthony Coughlan reminded Judge Clark, chairman of the Referendum Commission in a recent letter of his failure to explain the actual subject matter of the proposal to amend the Constitution and the legal text for this, as the Referendum Act requires.

I am a long way from having completed the full analysis of what the 'Yes' side has put before the people. They have supported and indulged an appetite for scaremongering, lies and illegal aid that parallels the appetite of Pantagruel.

Under the shadow of this behaviour, the country votes tomorrow.

Irish Independent

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