THE Irish people have surrendered to the European Union a slice of their democratic rights, which they won from Britain less than a century ago.
It must be said that the winning of those rights was the work of a small minority working for Irish independence from Britain at the end of the 19th Century and up to 1921.
The will of the people was strongly against them then, and particularly against the violence. But the people also welcomed the result and worked with it, in an atmosphere of sustained political peace, in the following decades.
The Irish people found another form of national authority in the Roman Catholic Church, which effectively kept them in their place and kept them poor but faithful during many of those same decades.
To a marked degree those decisions, like many electoral decisions since, were made in much the same mood of ignorance that prevailed during the first referendum and prevailed again during the second.
This has been described as a "landslide". In fact, the landslide leaves almost 600,000 voters without any significant mainstream party to vote for, and with the other 1.2 million voters basing their faith in the future on a deeply biased, and hopelessly wishful interpretation of the benefits to be gained from the Lisbon Treaty. Which side will say, in the future: Told you so?
The result, this time, is as much one of ignorance about the treaty as it was before. It derives from a confusion between the European Union and the treaty's supposed "properties" or "benefits".
The confusion has been deliberately made central to the referendum campaign, as has the fear that was also central to the 'Yes' side's approach. Fears of a different kind were also spread, rather less effectually, by the 'No' side.
The 'Yes' side backed up the deliberate confusion with a number of illegalities committed in the name of the Government, the State and the Referendum Commission. These were non-precedents. They brought the European Commission, its personnel and their staff directly into the campaign, which was unlawful.
It was also unlawful to involve 'Yes'-supporting European political parties in providing funds, in our own Government using public funding in support of one side, and in representing inaccurately the issues.
This should have been regulated by the Referendum Commission. It did no such thing, nor did it fulfil its statutory purpose, which was to explain the text of the referendum amendment on which people voted. At no time did the public get a full and clear indication of this.
The public media, including notably RTE and Newstalk 106, pursued a strongly 'Yes' side promotion, contrary to the State's broadcasting acts that give them their licences.
The public, looking for a new form of slavery, had plenty of inducements, many of them of no greater value than the strings of glass beads given to African chieftains in exchange for their men and women when slavery was a profitable trade.
I expected a greater anger than manifested itself, and the quelling of a natural enough fear about the unknown in respect of jobs and in respect of the miracles to be performed by Europe, which simply could not be done.
In the light of all this it is hard to justify the interpretation of the referendum result as a landslide when it has left the three main political parties and the Greens, together with all those money interests, foreign politicians and European institutions who supported the 'Yes' vote, still confronted by 600,000 'No' voters.
Where will they turn? What will they do? Those who can be identified leaning towards organised politics in the form of Sinn Fein or Joe Higgins or Richard Boyd Barrett, are, in my judgement, a small percentage.
The issues that really mattered and concerned the democratic protections that were surrendered and the democratic independence that was partly cast aside, are far bigger than the republicanism of Sinn Fein, with its as yet ill-formed economic and social policies, or the far right religious fears of Coir.
Part of the definition of that new political movement out of which a new political party might be formed, has to reside in the necessity for a redefining of how democracy should work, both here and in Europe.
Further reform in Europe is not ruled out simply by virtue of the 'Yes' vote, leading eventually, with Czech agreement, to the treaty being adopted. And reform here is long overdue. The Dail is not working as it should. Fianna Fail have steam-rolled their way through power and need to be removed and placed in opposition. The 'Yes' vote superficialities of the Labour Party and Fine Gael do not equip them too well for that task. A fourth force is needed.
An emphasis on a better use of democracy, both here and in Europe, is a start. A second is the need for better ethical standards and a determination to take hold in a much firmer way on public pay, income, expenses and the regulation of these.
I found it verged on the preposterous to hear Brian Lenihan, during the course of an RTE interview about Fas, saying that he had set up, or was about to set up, "a commission into over-priced arrangements".
Could it be true? That a commission would look into the absurdities of the way in which the public sector, at its higher level employees, is floundering through rivulets of money and deliveries of cars to senior executives who seem to keep everything when they are disgraced? Such a commission would then report and its report would be ignored.
We need to address that. Will Europe help us? Europe will deliver none of the things promised in recent weeks. We will not be nearer the heart of that Europe. We have served our purpose and will be further away than ever from that heart, an ill-governed minor country whose problems, under the kind of leadership under which we groan at present, will never be properly sorted out.