Saturday 20 January 2018

Consent given, but grudgingly

Our masters in Europe and our administrators in Dublin would be wise to not read too much into Friday's fearful act of acquiescence. Far from being a vote of confidence in Europe, or the Government for that matter, the sullen Yes this referendum secured from a grudging citizenry was an act of despair.

In 1979, in a powerful peroration about the accession to power of Charles Haughey, Garret FitzGerald warned that while we must "respect the forms of democracy even when the true spirit of the democratic system is not breathed into these forms. . . the feet that will go through that lobby to support his election will include many that will drag; the hearts of many who will climb those stairs before turning aside to vote will be heavy".

Like that ill-fated Dail in 1979, on Friday a heavy-legged electorate gave "their formal consent" to the ratification of the fiscal compact. Few, however, will say of a treaty delivered under the threat of 'immediate and terrible' austerity that it was granted with "full consent".

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