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Neutered EU is futile

Madam -- Thank you for inciting your readers (Editorial, Sunday Independent, May 20, 2012) to come up with a Big Idea which might lift us out of our confusion, fear and despondency.

That Big Idea has been around for some time. However, because those who claim to be our leaders have almost all of them grown up in the comfort and complacency created by those who had that Big Idea in the first place, they have lost sight of the realities of first the 20th and now the 21st century.

Put aside for a moment the divided wreckage of Europe in 1945. To be personal and anecdotal, for me the key year was 1956 and the months October/November. The comic adventure of the Anglo/French pseudo-imperialist 'recapture' of the Suez Canal ended in farce with the mock lions slinking home with their tails between their legs. The Hungarian assertion of 'national sovereignty' ended with extreme and bloody 'prejudice' under the onslaught of Soviet tanks -- and in gulags. These events began the very slow and laborious process of nudging me along the road towards the realisation that the classic Griffith/Lemass (Mark One) doctrine of literal (my italics) 'independence' simply did not 'compute'. If the concept of national identity, (still absolutely at the core of my being in 2012), was to be conserved and promoted in the real world, it had to be done in a different way.

As it happened, brighter and more influential intellects in Ireland had already reached that conclusion and I was fortunate enough to be able to support them in taking the struggle to a European level where our individual and collective interests could be, and were, vindicated.

Instead of a neutered EU set in a fairy-tale galaxy of 1848-model 'independent', mythically sovereign tiny nation states, we need a strong -- democratic -- federal European Union.

Based on the principle, enunciated by the American Colonies in the 18th century, (and by the Swiss cantons centuries before), that if we do not 'hang together' in the struggle, we shall assuredly 'hang separately'.

An EU capable of defending our interests in a globalised world. Our European leaders need to make that quantum leap, but they will not do so unless they experience the pressure of public opinion.

We face the more immediate problem of a vote on May 31 which may decide our future for decades to come.

Unless the 'Yes' side has been lying about the non-availability of handouts in the event of a 'No' vote on the fiscal treaty, the best which we can hope for in that event is an indefinite period of extreme uncertainty (with its automatic impact on ratings and interest rates). Followed by some nice person maybe flinging us a few bob to keep us going and everything being 'all right on the night'.

A far more likely scenario is: 'They voted, didn't they?' Followed by our tiny little statelet with a population smaller than that of many European cities dropping off the agenda. The consequence in Ireland will be a succession of right-of-centre governments implementing an 'austerity' far more brutal and lacking in 'hope' than anything we have so far encountered. Alternatively, just in time for 2016, we will have a Sinn Fein- led fantasist government trying -- ironically -- to implement its own unavoidable sub-Castroist brand of 'patriotic' austerity. Probably not for very long -- pending surgical removal.

No easy choices in the real world. The balance has to be in favour of a 'Yes' vote on May 31.

Maurice O'Connell,

Tralee, Co Kerry

Sunday Independent